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TheGi fGod 

Georrfe X Knigh t 


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Professor of Theology in Tufts College Divinity School 





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A8TOR, i-ENO* *"* 



Published December, 1904. 

Stanbope press 

b O S T O N, U.S.A. 


It is the opinion of the compiler of the 
following pages that the times can make good 
use of whatever truth there is in the philoso- 
phy of Optimism. 

Acknowledgment is due James Sully, 
whose History of Pessimism (Henry King & 
Co., London, 1877) is so thoro, clear and 
fair, both in the record of facts and in the 
treatment of them, as almost to discourage 
other attempts at any part of the subject. 

I am also under obligations to my asso- 
ciate, Professor W. S. Woodbridge, for wise 
and kindly suggestions, in the preparation 
of this volume. 



INTRODUCTION, and outline of course of 


i. ITS HISTORY: Theory of an Evil Fate, excusing 
God. Plato and his Intractible Matter. The 
Stoics' Denial of Evil, and Showing it to be useful. 
Hindu theories of Illusion, and Transmigration. 
Persian Dualism. Gnostic Dualism, and the idea 
that Evil is Negative. The Old Testament : Satan 
tempted Eve, and Job endured in faith. The 
New Testament: Faith again, and the idea that 
Moral Evil is man's choice, and Physical Evil is 
not always a punishment of sin, but is essentially a 
means of discipline. The Church has had all the 
old theories, especially: Inherited Guilt, Absoluteness 
of God, Negative Evil. Leibnitz's Limited God. 
The newly preached Sympathetic God. Pages 3-25 


stated by its advocates. 

The witnesses are Solomon, Job, and the Chris- 
tian Church generally — it would be universally but 

v i Contents, 

that memory and hope naturally misrepresent the 
facts in favor of optimism. Witness also the Facts : 
The nature of life is want; Pain exceeds pleasure; 
The world is constructed for pain; The mischief is 
increasing, by intensified sensibility, and nature's 
attack on it; Sin is necessary; Sympathy multiplies 
pain, and the Church says it is to be so forever, and 
worse; The real character of nature; The custom- 
ary defenses of optimism are so weak as to really 
confirm pessimism. — A final witness, according to 
Job and Isaiah Pages 25-53 


1. It must be admitted that much of the case is 
established beyond dispute : There is pain. It is 
by the will of God. The innocent suffer (in many 
instances) by the very act of God. It is He also 
that made sin possible and provided enticements. 
From all which we must infer that God is limited 
either in goodness or in power: in other words, The- 
odicy as usually held is disproved. 

2. The errors of Pessimism : — A partizan quotation 
of the facts. Fallacy of massing them. Fallacious 
claim that words are inadequate. Misunderstand- 
ing of the nature of want, and of life and the preva- 
lence of pain. A false a priori assumption "The 
Absolute God" underlies the whole argument of 
pessimism. Some specification of "reasoning" 

Contents, vii 

that must be given up by both sides, to clear the 
ground . Pages 53-70 


1. Deductive: The First Cause is a Mind. — So 
say Conscience, the "Christian Consciousness" or 
Disposition, our Mental Constitution, and many 
authorities. — Optimism is a good working theory. 

2. Inductive : A general law, with a decreasing 
number of exceptions. The utilities of pain. 
Pain is decreasing. Tendency of things toward 
good Pages 70-78 

5. THE THEORY OF OPTIMISM elaborated in 
some directions. — The natural man was to be- 
come a spiritual man. Quantity of life must first be 
secured. Pleasure might lead him on for a while, 
but not far enough, nor fast enough. Pain must be 
used to drive him. Quality, next, is to some ex- 
tent, conditioned on pain and grief, and the high- 
est attainments on social relations. Hence these 
had to be provided for from afar, in law necessity, 
conscience, constitution, instinct. The Central 
Difficulty of Theodicy is Innocent Suffering — which 
is unavoidable, but utilized. The New Prophets 
say that love must have pain in it, now and always. 

Pages 78-94 

6. SUMMARY of the study of the works of God as in- 
dicating his character Pages 94-97 

viii Contents. 


Definitions. — Righteousness — Justice — Holiness 
— Goodness — Love. 


/. Is God* s Love different from ours ? (a) In that 
it is infinite. — Momerie's reply, (b) In that it is 
wise. — But there is also wise love among men. 
2. Is divine Love finite ? 

(a) " Limited to itself." — Nonsense. 

(b) " Lacks self-sufficiency." — Ditto. 

(c) " Unlovely objects are a limitation." — Yes, in 
one sense, but not within our present meaning. 

Pages 99-106 

(d) "Love and Justice are opposed in their very 
nature (and the world so indicates)." — In reply 
refer again to Theodicy which sees no proof of antag- 
onism. Justice can be opposed to a foolish love, not 
to a wise one. Besides, Reason rejects all limita- 
tion of God, and Conscience especially rejects the 
idea of a limited goodness. We have no right to 
any theory that involves "war in the members" of 
God Pages 106— m 

(e) "At least there are Practical Limitations" — No 
doubt we may say (with reference to some things) 
" God would if he could," implying that he cannot, 

Contents, ix 

and is therefore limited. But this would be of 
power and not of goodness. Observe that some of 
these alleged practical difficulties are temporary, and 
are merely stages in the process of development. 
Others are regarded as "eternal" — but they do 
not exist at all, so far as we can see. Pages 1 1 1— 1 19 
SUMMARY of the study of the moral character of 
God as indicated in the nature of the divine attri- 

Appendix, addressed to those who still cannot ac- 
cept the optimistic reasoning. Another course is 
open (by modern science and reason too) leading in the 
same direction Pages 1 21-126 




The substance and course of thought in 
this book may be stated as follows : 

The doctrine that God is entirely good 
has been disputed on two grounds — first, 
his works contain an element of evil, and 
secondly, some of his attributes are not in 
every respect consistent with goodness in 
the ordinary meaning of the term. We 
wish to examine these grounds and ascertain 
their full significance. 

The consideration of the first ground 
gives rise to what has long been called the 
problem of evil. Its question is, How can a 
good God be the author of this world, in which 
evil is so large a part ? Many have under- 
taken to answer the question by some theory 
or view of the world, by which they think 
its Author may be defended. Any such 

2 The Goodness of God. 

theory or proof of God's goodness is techni- 
cally called a theodicy^ or justification of 

In order to understand the best thought 
on this great subject, and to clarify our own 
thought, it seems well first to study the his- 
tory of the problem of evil, or rather of 
men's solutions of the problem ; in short, the 
history of theodicy. 

After a brief survey of that field, we shall 
gather all the strength of pessimistic theories 
of the world, all that can be or has been 
said against the character of nature in one 
indictment against God's goodness — let the 
worst be said. 

Next we shall try to estimate the actual 
value of this indictment, and shall offer some 
considerations in rebuttal, and thus set forth 
the particulars of the latest theodicy. This 
will constitute the defenses of optimism as 
conceived in the most advanced reasonings 
of the day. 

Secondly, in studying the remaining 
ground of objection to the goodness of 
God, we shall observe the subject in relation 

The History of Theodicy, 3 

to the divine attributes, in its general theo- 
logical setting. The whole we believe to 
be not only a true view of the divine char- 
acter, but a real support and confirmation 
of Christian faith hope and love. 




Hesiod gave expression to one of the ear- 
liest speculations which have influenced the 
thought of men in their attempt to solve the 
problem of evil. He represented the course 
of human history from the Golden Age, 
through the Silver and Brass to the Iron 
Age, as a decline caused by an evil fate which 
somehow constrained both gods and men. 
— But to attribute evil to fate is to acquit the 
gods ; and such was, to some extent, the 
intention of the very early Greeks. In this 
was a beginning of theodicy. 

According to the Prometheus Legend, the 

4 The Goodness of God. 

Titans were rude nature spirits, and the gods 
were upholders of world-order and reason. 
The two races were at war, and man, weaker 
than both, had scant consideration until Pro- 
metheus, a demi-god, took man's part, and 
procured for him the divine fire as a means 
of contending against the powers of nature. 
That made Zeus angry, and he punished 
both Prometheus and man with many evils ; 
until Hercules arose and set free Prometheus, 
but did not release man. — This, in the opin- 
ion of some critics, is a way of saying that 
evil is incident to civilization and to the 
ambition of men ; but men at length obtain 
divine help, and themselves grow up to 
great power, and at last are able to conquer 
many evils, though not all of them. 

Plato and Aristotle saw in matter or " not- 
being " the material of which the world was 
made ; but the material is intractable. God, 
who is altogether good, does as well as can 
be done with the stuff he has to work with. 
Plato had perhaps the first clearly intended 

The Stoics had two theodicies. They some- 

The History of Theodicy. 5 

times denied the existence of evil. Aurelius 
said: "All events turn out justly, and — if 
you will but observe nicely — there is a sov- 
ereign distribution of justice which gives 
everything its due." Accordingly many in 
all times have thought to destroy evil by 
boldly facing it, to annihilate it by the magic 
of words or the power of will — and to some 
extent they succeed, for many evils (not all) 
are in our thinking so. 

Secondly, they sometimes conceded the 
existence of evils, but justified them as use- 
ful or necessary means, or unavoidable inci- 
dents, in the accomplishment of a good pur- 
pose in the world. 

One conception of the Stoic has become 
the stock in trade of all theodicy of later 
times. He thought of evil as having that 
relation to the perfection of the world, which 
the discord note has in the perfection of 
harmony, or which the shadow has in the 
picture to bring out its brightness. Thus 
evil by itself, as it is not, is evil ; and taken 
in connection with other things, as it is, it is 

6 The Goodness of God. 

The Hindu cosmology represented this 
world as an evil dream of Brahma, or again, 
as a waking fancy with which he amuses 
himself for a while. — But an evil principle 
in Brahma manifestly destroys all theodicy. 

Philosophers, however, must have a the- 
odicy; therefore they called attention to the 
transitory nature of dreams and to their un- 
reality, and so tried to say that evils are only 
in imagination after all; they are only illusions, 
they do not really exist. But, as if they per- 
ceived the shallowness of such reasoning, 
they offered an additional explanation of evil 
fortune of men as due to a former state of 
sin, and as exactly proportioned to our de- 
serts acquired in that former existence. This 
was a theodicy again. 

According to Buddha this life is evil. There 
is in his scheme no theodicy, because there is 
no God to be justified. There is, however, 
Karma (fate or justice), which metes out to 
every man the exact measure of his deserts 
in a process of transmigration or metempsy- 

The Persians said, "In the beginning was 

The History of Theodicy. J 

a pair of twins " : Good and Evil. The 
works of Ahriman are always evil, and the 
works of Ahura Mazda (or Ormuzd) are 
always good. This is dualism. — Were it 
not for certain signs of unity in the world, 
which philosophy and science have seen, the 
Persian must be regarded as the perfect 
theodicist. But, in later times, the followers 
of Zoroaster have themselves seen the neces- 
sity of monotheism, and have found them- 
selves obliged to give up essential dualism. 

The Gnostics were of two kinds, one dual- 
istic and not essentially different from the 
Persian dualists, and the other monotheistic. 
According to the latter, the original One is 
perfect in all respects and overflowing with 
goodness. But this very overflow going 
forth in all directions and moving away from 
its original source becomes thereby weaker 
and less perfect in proportion to its distance 
from the center. So it is that the activities 
of those farthest away and most defective are 
evil and the source of evil. In their theory, 
God is not evil, but our being away from him 
is evil. Many of them also foresaw the time 

8 The Goodness of God. 

when all should return to the One and dwell 
with him in righteousness and light forever. 

They also supported their faith with the 
doctrine of transmigration of souls — a doc- 
trine which seems to have lived on its con- 
venience for theodicy. 

Other pagan theories have had so little in- 
fluence on modern opinions that they may be 
omitted from this account, unless we should 
include the Norse cosmology, in which the 
origin of evil is attributed to the evil will of 
some god (Loki) or of the giants who are 
the enemies of the gods, while the great gods 
are regarded as predominantly good, and one 
or more of them as altogether good. Among 
Norsemen, also, the time is foretold when 
evil shall be destroyed and all (the living) 
shall dwell with Balder the Good. 

The Old Testament. — In the Genesis nar- 
rative the beginnings of evil are in the malice 
of the Serpent or Satan who led our first 
parents to sin and thus brought all evils 
upon the race of men. This account seemed 
to leave God free from blame, and has been 
the pith of most of the- Christian theories 
unto this day. 

The History of Theodicy. 9 

The original simplicity of the theory had 
to be modified when men came to see that 
the individual fortunes of men (which are 
subject to the will of God) are not justly and 
equitably distributed. As early as the books 
of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, there was further 
thought on the subject. A great epoch in 
the discussion was the didactic poem of Job. 
Scarcely has another mind perceived so clearly 
and stated so courageously and justly the 
difficulties of the problem, and set forth so 
largely and wisely the struggles of the human 
mind towards a solution. 

The author of Job beholds the inequality 
in God's dealing with men, and that, in an 
extreme case, even a wise and good man faith- 
ful and pious toward God, is yet grievously 
afflicted, "deprived of his right," "persecuted 
with the strong hand " of God. But Job's 
faith and virtue are so great that he endures 
even injustice with patience, though he cries 
out for an explanation, and in the end attains 
a kind of triumph of fortitude, and a bless- 
ing. But his very reasonable prayer is not 
answered, except that God is great and con- 

io The Goodness of God. 

trols all things, and man is small and cannot 
receive the desired explanation. 

Job does not furnish a demonstrated or 
reasoned theodicy ; he has only an assertion 
that God is good, contrary to the evidence 
which is candidly seen and stated. 

Observe also that this candor is apparently 
commended by God (see the last chapter), 
while the less sincere and lame defenses of 
God by Job's friends (the professional theo- 
logians) are condemned and rebuked, and the 
authors of them are told to go and make 
their peace with God through Job. Are we 
not also to infer that his prophetic function 
is attained in part by his bitter experience 
faithfully endured, and that when, in the per- 
formance of that function, Job prays for his 
friends, he is thereby himself perfected or at 
least restored to the favor of God ? 

Job's wisdom, however, to which he had 
come, was " dumb resignation," he " lays his 
hand on his mouth." But men will not con- 
sent to that, and therefore the " Preacher " 
bursts forth into words again, and the pessi- 
mists and the optimists are with us to this 

The History of Theodicy. 1 1 

day. Because miseries are ever new, men 
either despair, or if hope be not dead they 
cry out, like Job, to be enabled to perceive 
the justice of God. 

The New Testament. — The Man of Sor- 
rows, acquainted with grief, fully recognized 
the existence of evil, and at last submitted 
to it unto death. Yet he also did not venture . 
to explain it so that we might see that God 
is good, and thus have a theodicy. He did, 
however, advance the theory some definite 
steps in clearness at least. First (a lesson 
the world very much needed to learn, and 
which it still refuses to see clearly) calam- 
ity is not primarily the punishment for 
sin (though secondarily it may become so in 
many instances) ; but its primary purpose 
is discipline, that man may see God. Of the 
blind he says : " Neither did this man sin, 
nor his parents, that he should be born blind, 
but that the works of God might be mani- 
fest in him." Therefore Jesus proceeds to 
work the works of God and to heal the 
afflicted — whereby at the same time the 
carping critics are judged, the blind receives 

I 2 The Goodness of God. 

his sight, bodily and spiritually, and many 
are converted or confirmed in the faith. 

It is rather by his authority, by example of 
absolute faith, and by works, that he affirms 
the goodness of God in spite of evil, and de- 
clares the ultimate triumph of righteousness. 1 

In Paul, evil is somehow connected with 
Adam's sin ; and specifically, moral evil is 
man's choice, and physical evil is a divinely 
appointed means of discipline by which God 
will accomplish a greater glory, and all evils 
shall in the wisdom and love of God be over- 
ruled unto his gracious and saving purposes. 

In the Church. — The Bible, as we have 
seen, bases theodicy on faith and authority. 
But men were not satisfied, they demanded 
to walk by sight, the sorrows of this world 
were so great. So the Fathers sought to re- 
lieve the strain by enlarging the vision of the 
" future life in which all wrongs shall be 
righted." Neither did this satisfy them, for 
it confessed that there are wrongs after all, 
and they are unexplained. 

The Fathers also resorted to pagan phil- 

1 Caird, Evol. and Relig., Vol. II., p. 1 1 1. 

The History of Theodicy. i 3 

osophies. Origen thought he saw light in 
the doctrine that evil is negative in its 
metaphysical nature, and is therefore not 
so serious a thing to deal with as it might 
be if it were positive. Why a good God does 
not at once dispose of evil by a miraculous 
fiat is explained by transmigration and the 
free choice of man, who insists on being evil 
for a while. Therefore, said Origen, the 
ills we endure are merely the just punish- 
ment of the sins we have done here or here- 
tofore. God is entirely just. 

Theodore of Mopsuestia thought evil a 
practically necessary incident in the evolu- 
tion or education of a race of free moral 
beings. It is, however, a temporary con- 
dition out of* which, and by means of which, 
the individual will at length be raised to a 
permanent righteous life. 

Augustine used several devices, inconsis- 
tently. Like Origen, he taught that evil is 
only negative anyhow ; and supported by 
authority as he supposed, he said our ill- 
fortune is merited not alone by our own sin 
in a former transmigration state, or in 

14 The Goodness of God, 

Adam, but by inheritance from Adam. 
Thus man (primarily Satan) was the author 
of sin, and all other evil is natural conse- 
quence or due punishment of sin. Then, 
by throwing some metaphysical dust into the 
air, the remaining difficulties were concealed ; 
and so God was supposed to be justified in 
the sight of men. 

One other principle is used more or less 
in nearly all theodicies since Augustine, 
though often unconsciously. Indeed, it was 
to be found also among the pagans. It was 
derived from the relations of the absolute 
monarch among men to the laws of his em- 
pire. Thus, the human maker of laws is, 
of course, above them, and can unmake 
them at his will. He makes them for his 
inferiors ; he himself is not responsible to 
them. So the pagan myths often represent 
the gods as doing what is forbidden to men, 
yet without crime or guilt, because they 
have a privilege or divine right above law. 

Similarly the Christians came some day to 
the thought of an " Absolute God " who is 
above moral laws, for he cannot be subject to 

The History of Theodicy, 15 

any ; and what he does is right, because he 
does it and wills it to be, and to be right. 
This doctrine appears in various forms in 
Duns Scotus, Calvin, Grotius, Edwards, and 
Emmons; and if I mistake not, is the sub- 
conscious justification of God in much that 
common Christians say and think about 

In modern times, with advancing intelli- 
gence, men are struggling all the more with 
the problem of evil. All the old devices, 
and some new inventions of men are put in 
requisition that we may be able to say with- 
out a blush, that God is good. Dualism 
still has influence in the doctrine that Satan, 
not God, is the responsible author of all 
evil ; but the works of Satan are now less 
prominent in theology than of old. To a 
limited extent also, we still hear that evil is 
merited by men, on the theory of transmi- 
gration or of heredity, or that men have no 
rights at all, being quite worthless : Man is 
but a worm, or a bubble, or dust. 

Still less often, perhaps, do we hear that 
" God, to be sure, is the author of all evil, 

1 6 The Goodness of God, 

but he is above morals, and whatever he 
does is right because he does it." Yet the 
shadow, at least, of the old doctrine remains. 
Men are accustomed to hold, as a general 
proposition or first principle, that God is 
wholly good ; and therefore what he does, 
though it seem to men wicked beyond com- 
pare, is somehow certainly right and good. 
Such is the confidence in this thought and 
the peace in its possession, that men often 
refuse to discuss whether that which they 
have said of God is not really foolish and 
blasphemous, because as they repeat, we are 
sure of one thing : " God is good, and that 
is enough." 

Others, perhaps more solicitous for the 
honor of God than for truth among men, 
point out that in one part or another of 
theodicy as it is, all manner of evil is said 
against God falsely and wickedly. They 
are moved therefore, in the interests of piety 
and of human welfare, to cry out against 
attempts to think about God. So, more 
than ever as light increases, it would seem 
that a rational defense of God is needed. 

The History of Theodicy. ij 

Many of the would-be theodicies are 
based in an attempt to minimize evil. Great 
men have tried to argue evil out of exist- 
ence, or even to talk it out of existence. 
Some still declare that evil is negative. 
Others get a clue from Spinoza, who 
taught that the ideas of good and evil are 
merely subjective, merely our way of look- 
ing at things, and the distinction between 
them does not exist in fact. It may be 
noted that this theory does not form a the- 
odicy, for, since by its assumptions^/ is an 
unreal notion, God cannot be called just in 
the very fact. The theory may, however, 
deny that he is unjust, which is to say that 
he is neutral : moral notions do not apply 
to him. 

A similar theory was put forward by 
Dr. Hodge, and many others. They have 
taught that pain is an illusion, that all evil 
is simply in our point of view, it is really 
good ; and when we see things aright, we 
shall see that all is good. Royce quotes 
from Lanier a happy illustration of the 
doctrine, that he who has love in his heart 

1 8 The Goodness of God. 

can find no ill : " Love is like an electric 
light going about in search of a shadow." 

But to follow further in this line would be 
to study mental pathology rather than the- 
ology, yet a few quotations may be allowed. 
For a moment perhaps, and in a sense, some 
have believed that " sorrow is better than 
laughter," and that " the woes of men are the 
work of their own hands." Is it possible 
that Hartley believed that " all men are 
supremely happy ? " How many of the 
Stoics of ancient days or their imitators 
among the Christians of these days, actually 
succeed in rising above pain, or in persuad- 
ing themselves that evil does not exist ? 
Did Dr. Hodge really think that " sin is an 
advantage to the universe ? " And do all 
the theologians who have sounded the praise 
of sin — their name is legion — sleep well 
o' nights, when they remember what they 
have said ? 

There is some evidence that they do not 
wholly believe their own words, for when 
certain classes of men — be they great like 
Rousseau, or mean like a less " fortunate " 

The History of Theodicy. 19 

criminal — attempt to put in practice the 
theory that " evil is good and there are no 
moral distinctions," they are promptly con- 
demned even by the apologists of evil, and 
sometimes punished, just as if they were 
really guilty — which is to confess that evil is 
a real thing after all, and is not an advantage. 
Leibnitz. — Probably the main current of 
rational theodicy has its modern source in 
Leibnitz. He strove mightily with the sub- 
ject, yet he came to the ordinary judgment 
that God is not the author of evil in any 
sense, but allows evil because he must allow 
it in order to certain good ends which he is 
working out. God has done the best that 
could be done, and so is altogether just. 
This is not the doctrine of Plato (that God 
is limited by some refractory material which 
he uses), nor of the dualists (that he is lim- 
ited by some other God), nor yet of the 
Absolutists who teach that God is not lim- 
ited even to the possible. It is, however, 
consistent with the rational doctrine of omnip- 
otence ; for it holds that to avoid evil en- 
tirely was impossible even to God, and to 

20 The Goodness of God. 

say that God could not avoid it, is merely 
to say that he could not do the impossible. 
So they " save his goodness by sacrificing 
his omnipotence." 

Leibnitz, however, had not clearly seen 
the whole of the rational theory ; he seems 
to have held that physical evil is the conse- 
quence of moral evil and its due punishment. 

Professor Royce has championed a theory 
which must be noted. He says that Job's 
problem, on Job's presuppositions (trans- 
cendental theism) is insoluble. Job must 
say that God is either cruel or helplessly 
weak. But Job is right in demanding a 
rational answer to his question. The an- 
swer is : " You are one with God, a part of 
his life ; he is the very soul of your soul, 
therefore when you suffer, your sufferings are 
God's sufferings, his own personal woe. In 
you God suffers precisely as you do, and 
has all your concern in overcoming this 
grief. The true question is, Why does 
God suffer ? The sole possible necessary 
and sufficient answer is : Because without 
suffering, without ill, without woe, evil trag- 

The History of Theodicy. 21 

edy, God's life would not be perfected. 
This grief is not a physical means to an ex- 
ternal end ; it is a logically necessary and 
eternal constituent of the divine life. — He 
is perfect. His world is the best possible 
world. Yet all its finite regions know not 
only joy but defeat and sorrow, for thus 
alone in the completeness of eternity can 
he be triumphantly perfect." 1 

This author, following Hegel, has taught 
that struggle, antagonism of opposites, is 
the very essence of life, even of the divine 
life itself; thus the world which is God 
manifest, and we who are really portions of 
God, must in the nature of the case go 
through the terrors of life in order to its 
blessings ; God himself cannot otherwise live 
and be perfect. 

Here is essentially the old theory of the 
Greeks. God is good and desires to do 
good only, but the strong hand of Fate is 
laid on him ; and it is the very doctrine of 
Job : God is " helplessly weak," yet he 
does the best he can. Royce, however, 

1 Studies of Good and Evil, p. 14. 

22 The Goodness of God. 

brings out more vividly the sympathy of 
God with the griefs of men. And such a 
God is immensely more available for the 
purpose of religion. 

Pessimism. — If religion actually began in 
fear, as some hold, it would seem that 
pessimism is the original doctrine, is older 
than optimism. There are still found those 
who believe in evil gods but not in good 
ones. Some of the advocates of this theory 
are among the latest developments of civ- 
ilization, 1 and some are savages in darkest 
Africa or Asia. 

There is also a form of thought which 
may be called practical pessimism, and which 
is the natural outcome of an evil life. 
Shakespeare represents Macbeth as saying, 
when his tragedy draws near its close. 

M And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle ! 
Life's but a walking shadow ; a poor player 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, 
And then is heard no more : it is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing.' ' 

1 Schopenhauer, Hartmann, etc. 

The History of Theodicy. 23 

There is a similar order of thought which 
is not so thoroughgoing in doctrine. Its ad- 
vocates may be classed as agnostics. They 
include many called by that name in another 
connection, Hume, Huxley, F. A. Lange, 
for examples. They despair of attaining 
truth, conviction, faith. They are repre- 
sented in philosophy and in common life. 
Philosophically, they speak as Omar : 1 

** Why, all the Saints and Sages who discussed 
Of two Worlds so wisely — they are thrust 
Like foolish Prophets forth ; their Words to scorn 
Are scattered, and their Mouths are stopped with Dust. 

Myself when young did eagerly frequent 
Doctor and Saint and heard great Argument 
About it and about ; but evermore 
Came out by the same Door wherein I went." 

Again, representing the practical tendency 
of this kind of life, the same author writes : 

" The Grape that can with Logic absolute 
The two and seventy jarring Sects confute, 
The sovereign Alchemist that in a Trice 
Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute." 

1 Rubaiyat, xxvi, xxvii, and lix. 

24 The Goodness of God. 

There is also the type of the frivolous and 
empty, represented in the words of a dis- 
tinguished Frenchman: 

La vie est vaine : 
Un peu d* amour, 
Un peu de haine — 
Et puis — bonjour ! 

La vie est breve : 
Un peu d'espoir, 
Un peu de reve — 
Et puis — bonsoir ! 

Such is probably the mood of mind of 
a large number of " worldly " people in 
France and elsewhere, but it is not ordi- 
narily possible to the strong and thoughtful. 
It is a sign of weakness, and leads toward 

Summary. — Theodicies classified, and indi- 
cated by their ruling ideas : — 

i. Transmigration of souls : We sinned 
in a former state, and so deserve the ill that 
is allotted to us. 

i. Adam's sin corrupted our race-stock, 
so that by nature we deserve all ill. 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 25 

3. The absolute God does as he wills 
and makes a thing right by willing it. 

4. There is, in fact, no evil. Whatever 
is, is right. 

5. Moral evil is man's choice ; and 
physical evil is a necessary means to our 

6. Dualism : God is good, but limited 
by Ahriman, Satan, fate, or other evil. 

7. Pessimism: There is no good God, 
no theodicy. 

It should be added that some of these 
doctrines might be extensively subdivided; 
also that some individual theodicies mingle 
several of these notions in various forms and 

Our further studies of this subject will be 
limited to numbers 7 and 5, popular interest 
being confined to these two. 


The Witnesses : Solomon was King of Jeru- 
salem in the days of its glory, and he 
had attained great honor, and wealth, and 
wisdom, and had seen all the works that are 

26 The Goodness of God. 

done under the sun, but he found that in 
much wisdom there is much grief. He 
gathered great riches, such as no king on 
earth could equal, and behold they were 
vanity. He gave himself to pleasure, and 
withheld not from his eyes anything they 
wished to see, nor from his heart any joy. 
Then he looked on all the works his hands 
had wrought, and behold all was vanity. 

He applied his heart to explore all the 
works of God, and he turned his heart to 
know wisdom itself, and saw how it excels 
folly as light excels darkness ; yet also he 
returned, and saw under the sun that the 
race is not to the swift nor the battle to the 
strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet 
riches to the understanding, nor yet favor to 
the man of skill, but time and chance hap- 
peneth to them all. The wise and the foolish 
come to the same end, and pass away; all 
are vain; and wisdom itself is vain. 

Job. — More of the elements of the prob- 
lem were grasped by the author of Job, and 
were set forth in that classic drama which has 
been both as a literary work and as a philo- 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 27 

sophical essay, the admiration of all historic 
times. It is related that a wise and good 
man, zealous in piety for self and others, 
known of all, both man and God, to be 
blameless and righteous and devout, was yet 
grievously afflicted. In a moment, as it were, 
his estate was destroyed, his children slain, 
his friends turned against him, his good name 
assailed, and his body afflicted with a loath- 
some disease. While on the other hand, as 
he says, the wicked live to a ripe old age, in 
health and prosperity and honor, their chil- 
dren are prospered with them and their 
houses are safe from fear. 

Job is very clear that God, knowing him 
to be innocent, has yet treated him as if he 
were guilty : has vexed him night and day 
and terrified him with dreams, has hunted 
him as one would hunt a lion and snared him 
in a net, and set him up for his target and 
smitten him with poisoned arrows, torn him, 
broken him asunder, dashed him to pieces, 
has wronged him and persecuted him as an 
enemy, and multiplied his wrongs without 
cause. In such words Job accuses God. 

28 The Goodness of God. 

The Church. — The next witness that the 
pessimist calls is the Christian Church. Plear 
its evidence. It has taught that this world 
is evil, a vale of tears, the kingdom of Satan, 
the natural abode of the martyr, it is some- 
thing to be endured for awhile, a place of 
trial for flesh and spirit, an unworthy and 
even malicious thing : a fleeting show for 
man's delusion given, so thoroughly bad that 
only a fragment can be saved, and that by 
miracle, and at a great price, even the death 
of God, the Son of God. 

The church thought it necessary to explain 
the miserable estate of man, and therefore in- 
vented the doctrine of total depravity, which 
teaches that man deserves all possible ills, 
and so God is not unjust in inflicting them. 
Yet feeling in their hearts a suspicion that 
this theodicy is lacking after all, they point 
to a future life where the wrongs of this life 
will be set right. Thus they confess that 
this world of itself cannot be justified. 

Still further, they teach that bad as this 
world is, it is growing worse; the climax of 
evil must soon be reached, Anti-Christ must 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 29 

come, and a universal conflagration will be 
the only possible and fitting result. 

Not all the members of the church have 
agreed in this extreme statement. Some of 
them have had peculiar dispositions, or a 
limited experience and observation. They 
are like Emerson ; but Carlyle took him 
down into the slums of London and showed 
him some of the worst of them, and said : 
" Now do you believe in Hell ? " So generally, 
however, has the severer doctrine been ap- 
proved, that even the chief of the optimists, 
Origen himself, regarded this world as a penal 

Christians would probably have reached a 
more general agreement on this view, had it 
not been for certain natural tendencies to 
misrepresent the facts to one's own imagi- 
nation ; for we instinctively contend against 
pain and all felt evil, and the worse it is, the 
more we try to slight it and to minimize it. 
For instance, our memory dwells fondly on 
past pleasures because we like to recall them, 
and avoids the pains because we dislike them ; 
and so its picture of the past is untrue. Still 

30 The Goodness of God. 

more so of the future, for not being limited 
by any experience, because the facts of the 
future are yet to come, we paint it in all the 
colors we love. And thus, however dark the 
present, our picture of life as a whole is 
suffused with rosy tints, its actual colors are 
quite misrepresented. Indeed, if it were not 
so we could not live, for if time did not miti- 
gate our sorrows, if we could recall all the 
bitterness of our pains and griefs, and still 
more, if we should join to them an equally 
real sense of those to come, we should be 
entirely crushed beneath them. 

The pessimist presses his argument further 
and continues : See how maliciously our 
nature is constructed, for this false instinct 
by which we spontaneously minimize evils, 
saves our life, when if we only saw things as 
they are we should perish and be at peace. 
But this is not allowed; we are so made that 
we instinctively cling to life all the more 
madly if we have suffered much, fearing that 
a worse fate may come to us if we venture to 
give up the ills we have. So we foolishly 
love life which is evil, and fear death which 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism, 3 1 

is no evil, but the cessation of all evil. If 
we were guided by reason alone, we should 
love death and hate life ; but by various 
illusions we are as we are. With the growth 
of intelligence, however, these illusions will 
pass away and the barren awful fact will be 
manifest. Thus both our present ignorance 
and our coming knowledge are evil ; and that 
which comes is worse, yet there is no escape ; 
we are impelled to this disillusionizing ad- 
vance of intelligence and its terrible conse- 

Meanwhile how we desperately clutch at 
any fiction to bolster up our optimism ! 
Many falsehoods must be invented to sup- 
port one. An old prophet said, "I have 
been young and now am old, yet have I not 
seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed beg- 
ging bread." Of course he had seen the right- 
eous forsaken and his seed begging bread, if 
he had seen anything. Yet the men of the 
church have gone on repeating the word, 
though their eyes gave them the lie every 
day, and though Solomon and Job had 
plainly set forth the prosperity of the wicked, 

32 The Goodness of God. 

and Jesus had said : Neither did this man 
sin, nor his parents, that he was born blind ; 
and had definitely told them that in this 
world they should have tribulation. 

By the same tendency we have been 
accustomed to resort to various comforting 
expressions, and certain harmless, indeed, 
necessary sophisms. We soften a pain by 
saying we are not so badly off as others we 
have heard of. One man who had sciatica 
gave thanks it was not gout, and when he 
had gout he gave thanks it was not both, and 
when he had both he gave thanks that he 
had not had both all the time. We are 
taught that it is a virtue to persistently look 
on the good side of things, and are wont to 
console a sufferer by the remark that good 
often comes of evil — not thinking that it is 
true also that evil comes of good, as, for ex- 
ample, some poor body's good intentions 
that work almost more mischief than evil 

Likewise those great theologians, who 
most zealously declare the total depravity of 
this world, have sometimes from the same 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 3 3 

world, worked out a Natural Theology, and 
have so — by great magic it was ! — derived 
the Absolutely Good from the absolutely 
evil. They did not perceive the irony of it ; 
but in their "reasoning," we perceive the 
logical value of optimism. 

This habit of thought rises also on occasion 
to great heights of heroism. For the most 
obstinate asserters of optimism are sometimes 
the very men who have suffered most in the 
world : Paul, Origen, and the whole line of 
Christian martyrs. Such habits should be 
allowed them. There is need enough of 
every device by which the powers of evil 
can be mitigated. By all means let them 
persuade themselves, or think they per- 
suade themselves, to give thanks for their 

Many have attained an easier grace of 
giving thanks for other people's grief, for 
Dante's and for Tennyson's loss of their 
best-beloved, because by such means, for- 
sooth, we have certain beautiful poems for 
our delectation. So we are told of some 
great one made great by the hard circum- 

34 The Goodness of God. 

stances of his youth, and are led to forget 
that ninety and nine others were kept back 
discouraged, crushed by the same sort of 
circumstances, and that for the lack of timely 
effective sympathy and kindly aid, most of 
the world's genius goes to waste. 

Perhaps no one has more clearly expressed 
the mode of mind that finds satisfaction in 
evil than Max Miiller, who wrote that " A 
universe in which endless punishment were 
not, would be an undesirable universe." 

One cannot, however, praise evil with a 
whole heart, and so be at peace after all — 
coming into optimism by the back door ; 
and therefore the persistent optimist has yet 
other devices. He cries down the occasion : 
" Shall gravitation cease when the saints go 
by ! " or " If you will diligently consider 
man, you will find him only smoke and 
bubble — as if rhetoric, or reviling the ob- 
ject abused could justify the abuse. Or, 
he says, " Evil is only negative anyhow " — 
as if metaphysics could cure a toothache. 
Or, again, he says, " Pains do not really ex- 
ist, we are all infinitely happy " — as if false 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 3 5 

assertion to the verge of insanity were any 
better than metaphysics. 

Thus, somehow, in spite of the facts, and 
with or without trying to justify his idea, 
man has taken a bright view of the world, 
and has painted it in attractive colors. Had 
he the courage to see it as it is (according 
to the pessimist), he would find it altogether 
evil. Because he must, he has 

"trusted God was love indeed, 

And love Creation's final law — 
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw 
With ravin shrieked against his creed/ ' 

Some peoples are found who have no 
such infatuations : Nature's shriek has been 
heard and heeded by them, perhaps because 
they had not mental invention enough to 
work up a fictitious philosophy apart from 
nature. Their philosophy has been guided 
by the veracious and unimaginative process 
of evolution, and is a spontaneous response 
to the facts. So, Herodotus tells us, the 
Thracians ! greeted a new-born child with 

1 Sully, History of Pessimism, p. 19. 

36 The Goodness of God, 

lamentations, enumerating the woes he would 
have to meet ; but they buried the dead with 
games and rejoicing. The same unsophisti- 
cated philosophy prevails largely in the East, 
in Asia and Africa, among those tribes that 
have begun to think but have not yet learned 
our western hypocrisies. 

The facts of life. — Our next witness, says 
the pessimist, is Life itself; not that senti- 
mental philosophy which persistently blinds 
its eyes to the facts, but things as they are. 
Now by our very nature, life is practically 
made up of a series of efforts after some- 
thing, because we want it. And a want is 
a budding pain, always felt enough to lead 
us to act in order to satisfy it, and varying 
in intensity from the least to the greatest of 
our pains. If, perchance, we come to the 
condition of having all our wants satisfied, 
then presently ennui sets in, which is, if 
possible, still more unbearable. Thus life 
is a pendulum swinging between the pains 
of want and those of ennui : we want, or 
want to want, all the time. 

It is to be observed that some pleasures 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 37 

are attached to these pains, that is, we enjoy 
the removal of the want or the gratification 
of it, but just as soon as one desire is 
satisfied, another arises. Also observe that 
the want always exceeds the pleasure, for 
we desire more than we have, or we should 
not be able to say we want, nor to act 
toward supplying the want. Thus, in 
the nature of the case, man never is but 
always to be blest : there is always an excess 
of want over satisfaction : pain exceeds 

There are many evidences that the world 
is constructed for pain. Observe how it is 
that we do not so much feel health as sick- 
ness : we feel pain, but do not feel painless- 
ness ; feel care, but not freedom from care. 
Again, pain grows more painful the longer 
it lasts (up to limit of the power of the sys- 
tem to endure, when by physical necessity, 
destruction begins), but pleasure continued 
soon cloys. And even then while custom- 
ary pleasure ceases to please, yet if it is in- 
terrupted, pain results. Nature has a dog- 
in-the-manger disposition. It will not allow 

38 The Goodness of God. 

us to reduce the terror of past evils by for- 
getting them, for it has ordained that pleas- 
ures cannot long be appreciated without a 
contrasted pain, and therefore pain must 
intervene and be repeated often enough to 
be kept fresh in mind. 

If any one doubts the preponderance of 
pain, let him compare the pleasure of the 
animal that eats another, with the pain of 
the animal eaten. Or let him compare the 
pains of hunger and thirst in general, with 
the pleasures of eating and drinking, or 
the pains of a toothache with the pleas- 
ure of recovering from a toothache. Re- 
member also that most of our pleasures are 
the getting rid of pain, and thus any one 
can see how very much less are these pleas- 
ures than the corresponding pains. Or still 
more generally : the sum of possible pains 
exceeds the sum of possible pleasures. So 
the question whether nature is fitted for joy 
or sorrow is answered. 

Note also that man was not asked whether 
he would accept existence on any such terms. 
Life is thrust upon us : 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 39 

" What without asking, hither hurried, whence ? 
And without asking whither t hurried hence — 
O many a Cup of this forbidden Wine 
Must drown the Memory of that Insolence." x 

Evil is being increased. — It would be less 
discouraging if there were any hope that our 
earthly condition would be better at a later 
day. But what are the indications? (1) 
Our nature, as we advance, is becoming more 
sensitive to pain. (2) We naturally look 
also to the future and suffer by anticipation, 
whereas the lower animals are confined to the 
present ; they suffer for the moment only ; 
they have no unfortunate disposition to arti- 
ficially duplicate evil. (3) Man has other 
special sources of torture in his ideal life : his 
defeated ambitions,wounded pride,unrequited 
love. (4) Again, he multiplies sorrow arti- 
ficially by the fact of his growing sympathy 
with others. 2 

In very fact, as our civilization advances, 
our wants increase in number and intensity. 
Behold the specter of poverty of the masses 
that has of late years created such conster- 

1 Rubaiyat, xxx. fl Paulsen, Ethics, p. 310-11. 

40 The Goodness of God. 

nation ; whereas a hundred years ago the 
poverty of the masses was ten times greater 
than it is now. Now they have become 
more intelligent and conscious of their con- 
dition, and they can no longer endure its 
evil. Everywhere, He that increaseth knowl- 
edge, increaseth sorrow. The lower classes 
and natives are happier in proportion as they 
are lower. So the animals are happier than 
man, their pleasures are fewer but intenser, 
unimpeded, all-absorbing ; while man, the 
highest animal, is the most necessitous, and 
is becoming still more so. The most un- 
happy of all are the geniuses, those super- 
sensitive creatures doomed to the torment of 
living with those who neither know nor care 
for their finer sensibilities, who even despise 
and tread upon them. It may be true that 
they prefer their life of torment, because of 
some infatuation ; for they seem to think it 
a "pearl of great price," and they "sell all 
and buy it" — as a silly girl spends her all 
for jewelry (mere paste it is in this case). 
The poet Burns saw the real contrast of man 
and beast in the range of their life. When 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 4 1 

he was ploughing his field he turned up the 
nest of a mouse, and so ruined the happiness 
of a fellow-creature ; which evoked the poet's 
tender sympathy ; but he adds: — 

" Still thou art blessed compared with me, 
The present only toucheth thee, 
But och ! I backward cast my e'e 

On prospects drear ! 
And forward though I canna see, 

I guess and fear." 

It must be a species of insanity, says an 
eminent critic, that leads men to prefer their 
" superior position and high privileges." 
But such being their bent, it might be sup- 
posed that nature would allow them to have 
what they want. Not so, however ; it has 
arranged to prevent so far as possible every 
advance, and contends mightily against it. 
" I know of no study so unutterably saddening 
as that of the evolution of humanity, as it is 
set forth in the annals of history. Out of 
the darkness of prehistoric ages, man emerges 
with the marks of his lowly origin strong 
upon him. He is a brute, only more intel- 
ligent than the other brutes, a blind prey to 

42 The Goodness of God. 

impulses, which as often as not lead him to 
destruction : a victim to endless illusions 
which make his mental existence a terror and 
a burden, and fill his physical life with barren 
toil and battle. He attains a certain degree 
of comfort, and develops a more or less 
workable theory of life in such favorable sit- 
uations as the plains of Mesopotamia or of 
Egypt ; and then with such power as he has 
gathered he becomes conservative, and so, 
for thousands and thousands of years 
struggles with varying fortunes, attended by 
infinite wickedness, bloodshed and misery, to 
maintain himself at that point, on the one 
hand, against the greed and ambition of his 
fellowman, and on the other against the 
efforts of those who try to get him to move 
on. And when he has moved a step further, 
he exactly repeats the process with all who 
wish him to move yet further." " This con- 
quered land of the intellect would, in fact, pre- 
sent all the appearance of a battle-field 
stained with the blood of many victims, 
singed with the flames of martyrdom, and 
eloquent with every form of terror and 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 43 

punishment which human ingenuity can de- 
vise ! " " Every step of progress has been 
from scaffold to scaffold and from stake to 

When a man charges a great price for any- 
thing, it is because he is interested in the 
price ; he wants the money. What can we 
infer that nature is interested in and wants, 
when she charges so great a price of misery 
for every gain in man's progress ? 

The same temper in nature is exhibited in 
her provision for ethical and individual ad- 
vances. What is the meaning of ethical 
conduct ? It is not the following out of your 
instincts, which would be pleasure ; it is the 
denial of them ; and he who gives himself 
entirely to the world unto his own destruc- 
tion is praised as most virtuous. If, on the 
other hand, the ethical world were so con- 
structed that self-assertion were virtue, and 
the following out of our strongest passions 
and sources of pleasure were wholesome and 
to be praised, then nature would be our 
friend and could be spoken of as favoring 
happiness rather than misery. But when 

44 The Goodness of God. 

she makes sacrifice the condition of advance- 
ment, we must infer that she desires to 
torment us. 

Nor is it that she demands hardship and 
pain alone, for we are told by great author- 
ities, and they are supported by the facts, 
that sin itself is a necessary part of the order 
of things. Dr. Hodge, for example, said 
that the highest glory of God and the wel- 
fare of men have been promoted by human 
sin and misery, and that the same may be 
expected forever. The church has told us, 
It must needs be that offences come, but 
woe to him through whom they come. — 
Both the offence and the woe are necessary. 
Great illustrations of the law are offered, as 
in the doctrine that there is no salvation but 
by the murder of Jesus. One might fill a 
volume of quotations from the theologians 
in praise of sin and its necessary utilities. 
The poet says : 

" Pride ruined the angels, 
Their shame them restores ; 
And the joy that is sweetest 
Lurks in the stings of remorse." 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 45 

In order, then, to the joy that is sweetest we 
must have had the sting of remorse, which 
can only come after sin. This I repeat is 
by the constitution of nature and of the mind. 

What, then, have the optimists themselves 
testified, as they report the very facts, but 
that nature is avaricious for both misery and 
sin ? — for so she conditions her gifts, both 
small and great. 

The character of nature^ more specifically. 
— Nearly all the things which men are for- 
bidden to do because they are wrong, and for 
doing which they are hung or imprisoned, 
are nature's every-day performances. Kill- 
ing, the most criminal act recognized by 
human laws, nature does once to every being 
that lives, and in a large proportion of cases, 
after protracted tortures such as only the 
greatest monsters we read of in human his- 
tory ever inflicted on their fellow-creatures. 
Nature impales men,, breaks them as if on a 
wheel, casts them to be devoured by wild 
beasts, burns them to death, crushes them 
with stones, like the first Christian martyrs, 
starves them with hunger, freezes them with 

46 The Goodness of God. 

cold, poisons them by the quick or slow 
venom of her exhalations, and has hundreds 
of other hideous deaths in reserve, such as 
the ingenious cruelty of the professional 
Inquisitor never surpassed. 

Human beings are exhorted to mercy and 
tenderness and justice, and we will not num- 
ber among our friends him who needlessly 
sets foot on a worm. But nature tramples 
on them all, and elaborately provides for 
their doing likewise. A large portion of the 
animal creation pass their existence in tor- 
menting and devouring other animals ; they 
have been lavishly fitted out with instru- 
ments for that very purpose, and their 
strongest instincts impel them to it, and 
many could not live without it. Neither 
with animals nor with men has- nature any 
regard for mercy or justice or equity. She 
empties her shafts on the best and noblest 
indifferently with the meanest and worst ; 
upon those who are engaged in the highest 
and worthiest enterprises, and often as the 
direct consequences of the noblest acts. She 
mows down those on whose existence hangs 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 47 

the wellbeing of a whole people, and per- 
haps the prospects of the human race for 
generations to come, with as little compunc- 
tion as those whose death is a relief to them- 
selves and a blessing to their neighbors. 

We execrate the memory of a human 
tyrant and exhaust the vocabulary of blame 
for St. Bartholomew's day, and the days of 
the Irish rebellion, for Tai-Ping and the 
Armenian massacre — some thousands of 
people ; what then shall we say of nature's 
earthquake that sinks a province, and nature's 
drouth that starves a nation, and nature's 
plague and cholera, whose poison, surpass- 
ing any that Borgia ever mixed, is secretly 
mingled with the air and water and other 
necessaries of life, and so desolates a conti- 
nent — and this not once for all, and be 
done with it, but age after age, unsurfeited, 
producing and destroying. 1 

The customary replies of optimism are so 
weak and vain as to exhibit their fatuity and 
to confirm the argument of pessimism. 
" Evil is but for a moment." What folly 

1 Mostly from Mill's Three Essays, p. 28, etc. 

48 The Goodness of God. 

in calling that a moment which has already 
lasted a million of years, and shows signs of 
yet increasing in extent and ferocity ! Leib- 
nitz suggested that " after the Apokatastasis, 
all will be blessed." Good! — after the 
Apokatastasis ; but how about a hundred 
million years or more before that event P 

They also talk of " compensations in the 
fact of the infinite nature of man." Infinite 
nature ! That is just the difficulty : he is 
like a bird made for the free life of the open 
sky, and inclined to it and loving it — but 
he is caught in a cage with all manner of 
unclean things, and doomed to pine away 
and die, longing and crying out for freedom 
and for the higher life, or for no life. Man's 
privilege and dignity (being denied him) are 
his deeper damnation. 

The formal argument of the optimist is 
that the terrible things are unavoidable ; they 
are " necessary means to a greater end." — 
By the way, when was it shown that things 
necessary are any less disagreeable ? Here 
are some of the specifications. It is alleged 
that certain of the highest excellencies of 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 49 

character, the very perfections of sainthood, 
are to be reached only by suffering, and that, 
too, not merited suffering of that which is due 
our sins, but innocent suffering. Thus the 
torments which tyrants heap on the unoffend- 
ing " call forth our tenderest sympathy and 
devotion to the sufferer," and " our most 
vigorous indignation " and the heroic virtues 
therewith connected ; and when cruelty turns 
against us personally, then " our own un- 
merited suffering cultivates that perfect 
patience — ripest, mellowest, strongest, finest, 
supremest quality of the saints." The op- 
timists say these qualities could not be 
obtained in any other way. But the pessi- 
mist replies, suppose for a moment this state- 
ment to be true, who made it so ? God 
made it so. And our opponents insult in- 
telligence by adding that the same God who 
invented and carries on a progressive series 
of accumulating misery and sin is altogether 
good. Strange meaning they have for good ! 
How would they define evil? 

But their " reasoning " is all fiction. It is 
not true that pain is necessary, and that "God 

50 The Goodness of God. 

cannot train up a race of creatures without 
suffering." The truth is that he can do it and 
does do it. 1 If you want evidence and illus- 
tration of this, just watch a troop of healthy 
boys at play. Every breath they draw is an 
exultation ; every muscular movement is a 
delight ; every struggle is an intoxication. 
Mentally and morally and physically the 
lads are developing not only without pain, 
but with positive rapture of enjoyment. 

The necessity of strife as a part of the 
process of evolution is urged. Of course if 
we are to have tigers and hyenas, sharks, 
wasps and puffadders as a result of evolution, 
we must have the strife to develop such dis- 
positions. But the world could get along 
very well without them ; and is it worth while 
to adopt special means to produce Caligulas 
and Neros and their kind ? High forms of 
life can be developed without cruelty, and 
without various forms of evil. The bee lives 
on honey with no sour nor bitter, and he is 

1 Evil and Evolution, p. 32. " It is quite true that pain 
and poverty are no longer regarded as prime and necessary 
conditions to mental and moral effort." P. 33. 

The Case for Scientific Pessimism. 5 1 

one of the cleverest and happiest of mortals. 
Plant life was carried up to its highest point 
without pain, and all the animals, instead of 
torturing each other, might live on plants, as 
some of them do, if they had been so de- 
veloped. The herbivorous animals do not 
fall below the flesh-eaters in the grade of 
their evolution. No doubt violence and 
cruelty have developed remarkable character- 
istics ; but how many even superior faculties 
has it stunted or destroyed ? Anyhow, while 
very much less of suffering would apparently 
have done so much better, and would have 
been so much kinder, one cannot urge neces- 
sity as a defence of the goodness of God. 1 

Neither does it appear that the cruelties 
of nature must be done " in order to the ful- 
fillment of some law," or " lest God break his 
own laws/* For God might so relate the 
laws that all the worser forms of cruelty could 
be prevented. Just as when he arranged in 
physics that the cooling of an object should 
reduce its bulk, as a general law, he also 
arranged an exception so that when ice is 

1 Evil and Evolution, pp. 140- 1 58, 184. 

52 The Goodness of God. 

formed the law is suddenly reversed, the bulk 
increases for awhile and so the ice is made 
lighter and lies on the top of the water. By 
this device the ponds are prevented from 
freezing up solid in the winter, which would 
be a great calamity. So a variation of law or 
a new law might interfere to prevent the 
terrible calamities in human lives, and at the 
same time law in general, as in the case of 
water, would be preserved. The optimistic 
philosopher must confess it an insoluble 
mystery that there is not in the world a con- 
stant agency to ward off suffering from the 
innocent. But pessimism has no such diffi- 
culties, it is according to the facts. 

One more witness forbids the optimist to 
say that necessity and not God is the author 
of the evils of the world. It is true that, as 
things now are, pains and other evils come 
by the laws and processes of nature. But 
the optimist teaches that God made the laws 
and processes, and if he is omnipotent and 
of infinite resources, he can unmake them and 
make others. Job was right ; the Lord is re- 
sponsible for all this. And Isaiah reports 

Examination of Pessimism. 53 

his very words : " I am the Lord, and there 
is none else ; I form the light and create dark- 
ness : I make peace and create evil. I am the 
Lord who do all these things." 

Is the church satisfied with this witness ? 
— Such is the case for the prosecution. 


It must be admitted that the indictment 
against nature and its cause is a powerful 
one. When we behold what desolation he 
hath wrought and how terrible are his ways, 
we know that either God is evil, or he has 
dared to do what none but God would dare 
to do. 

Was it all fiction when some one said : 
" Now I see why God did not create this 
world sooner, why he delayed through all the 
ages of that early eternity ; it was because he 
saw what terrible things he must do and allow 
to be done P " 

It is significant also that so much of the 
material of this argument against optimism 
was furnished by the defense. It would 

54 The Goodness of God. 

seem that the optimist has been stunned or 
dazed by the power of opposing evils, and 
has, therefore, often failed to look them in 
the face and give them his best thought. He 
has been silent when he ought to have 
spoken ; and when he has spoken he has 
blundered with half thoughts or false thoughts, 
and so betrayed his cause and left himself 
open to such attacks. His case was hard 
enough to begin with, but by timidity and 
folly he has made it harder. 

One lesson he should thoroly learn : He 
cannot afford to blind his eyes to the facts, 
nor to slight the occasion, nor in any manner 
to misrepresent it, — nor to allow others to 
misrepresent it. 

The pessimist has proved (what the optimist 
should never have denied) that pain is a 
great fact in the world, and that there is a 
growing sensitiveness to it. To deny or 
conceal, or to minimize the statement, is 
folly, and can lead only to disaster. The 
friends of goodness must now say, with the 
scientist and statistician, " pain has existed 
for millions of years," and " on the average 

Examination of Pessimism, 55 

in this world one heart is broken every 
hour." Evil is not negative merely, it is 
positive and real. The church has made a 
great mistake in this regard, and has in effect 
been teaching l " a most mischievous form of 
pessimism. " Mr. Sully 2 feels that the com- 
mon understanding of man is insulted by 
the metaphysician's attempt to conjure away 
evil by calling it negative, and to charm it 
out of existence by words. 

It was an equally great mistake in the 
church to teach that the world as a whole is 
evil and of the devil, that matter is essen- 
tially evil, that the body is a curse, that we 
are totally depraved by nature and deserve 
all misery. Such statements are wretchedly 
false and blasphemous, and they give aid and 
comfort to the enemy. 

Pain is from God. — It cannot be doubted 
that evil (pain) as a means (not as an end), 
is a part of the plan of nature. God has 
arranged for it in making animal life sensi- 
tive to pain, through countless ages of geol- 

1 Royce, Spirit of Mod. Philos., pp. 450-53. 

2 History of Pessimism, p. 157. 

56 The Goodness of God. 

ogy. Not in a few cases merely, but in 
many and in general, organizations are 
adapted to pain and all its horrors. The 
powers of nature do often torment us, evil 
microbes attack us in secret and destroy us 
and our beloved. 

Worse yet : The sufferings of the innocent 
are (to some extent) ordained and caused by 
God, This thought has been peculiarly 
offensive to the Christian. But now he 
must acknowledge that pain is by divine 
appointment, a part of the life of most of 
the lower animals (who cannot sin that they 
might deserve pain) ; and even more intense 
forms of it are by the same hand (directly or 
indirectly, it makes no difference here) in- 
flicted on innocent children who have not 
yet reached the age of moral responsibility, 
and on adults who have not sinned accord- 
ingly. One should not try to dodge the 
facts by fanciful theories of " sin in a former 
state of existence," for which there is no 
evidence, nor by any other cheap device of 
metaphysics. Let the scientist have his gen- 
eralization. " The fact is, that the actual dis- 

Examination of Pessimism. 57 

tribution of good fortune and misery is 
largely independent of the moral qualities 
which men call good or bad." 1 

" Those who deserve punishment often es- 
cape, while the lash of opprobrium, if not of 
judicial sentence, is continually laid on the 
back of the innocent, and the finger of scorn 
is continually being pointed at the righteous. 
Herodias triumphs and John the Baptist is 
beheaded, Barabbas is released and Jesus is 
crucified." 2 Nor has any regular relation been 
discovered between pleasure and pain on the 
one hand, and right and wrong on the other. 

Let it no longer be claimed that "suffer- 
ing comes only by breaking the law, and if 
we could perfectly keep* the law we should 
have no pain." But rather, " pain comes 
sometimes by obeying law, and in accordance 
with law and by law." Christ himself suf- 
fered in order to fulfill the law. 

Still again, it cannot be denied that avoid- 

1 Huxley, Romanes Lecture, p. 41. Even so advanced a 
theologian as Fairbairn, is not quite free from the thought that 
physical evil is the effect of moral evil. Philos. of the Chn. 
Relig., pp. 163-167. 

2 Griffith, Fatherhood of God, p. 178. 

58 The Goodness of God. 

able undeserved pain is inflicted by God. The 
Christian theory includes this, when it holds 
that God's will is free in the making of this 
world. One cannot rationally escape from 
the proposition unless he hold that God is 
ruled by necessity. 

Provision for sin. — Neither can it be 
denied that God is the author of the possi- 
bilities of sin. He has so arranged that sin 
was practically certain to be committed by 
men. Moreover, just as with development 
the possibilities of pain increase, so with 
every advance in man, the range of evil is 
increased, and the more horribly wicked he 
may become. Yea, properly speaking, temp- 
tation toward sin is appointed by God. The 
poet wrote : 

I saw the pulse's maddening play 
Wild send thee pleasure's devious way, 
Misled by fancy's meteor ray, 

By passion driven : 
But yet the light that led astray 

Was light from Heaven. 

Inference. — All these things being evil, 
and being done by God, therefore the an- 

Examination of Pessimism, 59 

cient dilemma, attributed to Epicurus, is 
strictly just : " Either God could, but would 
not prevent evil, and then he is wicked ; or 
he would, but could not, and then he is not 
omnipotent." There being evil in God's 
world, it is necessary to suppose a defect of 
goodness or a defect of power. So far the 
pessimist has established his case ; he is per- 
fectly right in his premises and inference of 
so much of his argument. 

It must also be confessed that the opti- 
mist's defences have sometimes been unfor- 
tunate. It was neither gracious nor good 
logic to thank God for Dante's and Tenny- 
son's griefs, even though we have profited 
by them. The pessimist is right (in the 
usual meanings of the terms) : A perfectly 
wise and good God would have found means 
to produce good poetry without vivisection 
— else, what do you mean by " infinite re- 
sources " ? — " O, no," says another, " the 
noblest things are born in agony ! " — It 
may be so, says the pessimist, but a good 
God would arrange that the noblest things 
should be born in joy, and that there should 

60 The Goodness of God. 

not be any agony at all. Instead of which 
he has arranged a system which includes 
Neros and Caligulas and Borgias and their 
kind turned loose on the guilty and the 
innocent alike, to have their own way and 
to fill themselves with carnage ; when, ac- 
cording to the Christian theory, God could 
have stepped in and prevented their course 
of infamy and cruelty at any time. 

From this conclusion there is no escape 
for the Christian theist, except to deny that 
God could do otherwise than he has done. 
Which is to say: 1 " The Absolute God has 
vanished. The old theodicy is no theod- 

Having now clearly seen that so much of 
the pessimist's case is proved, let us inquire 
concerning the remainder. 


There seem to be two classes of errors in 
the case as presented. First, there is a mis- 

1 Cf. Fiske's Cosmic Philosophy, vol. ii, pp. 4<M-7 \ and 
Idea of God, p. 1 2 1 . 

Examination of Pessimism. 61 

apprehension or misuse of facts ; and sec- 
ondly, there are inferences from a false gen- 
eral principle assumed. 

First y the pessimist misrepresents the 
facts either by quoting only a portion of 
them, or by forcing an evil interpretation on 
them. For example, it is true that the 
church and other witnesses have testified as 
he alleges, but still more they have testified 
to the contrary. It is true there is a grow- 
ing sensitiveness of nerves, and other greatly 
increasing possibilities and opportunities of 
pain ; but there are also possibilities and 
opportunities of increasing pleasure. Like- 
wise it may be true that the omnipotent 
God could have chosen for us a lot with more 
pleasure in it, and has not ; but also it is true 
that he might have chosen a lot with more 
pain in it, and has not. Now to make use 
of one set of these facts and not the other is 
specious and unfair. 

There is a fallacy also in the habit of look- 
ing at all pains in the mass, as if the mass 
describes our condition of life. But in fact 
we do not suffer them all at once. Usually 

62 The Goodness of God. 

we suffer one at a time, and more often none 
at all. 

There is a fallacy in the statement (as it is 
used) " that words are inadequate to repre- 
sent the power of evil." It is true that the 
words used to describe the toothache are 
inadequate, in the sense that they do not 
cause so much pain as the tooth does. But 
at the same time they are adequate to the 
real purpose of words. Just as words which 
have no weight on the scales may truly, and 
adequately, say that a certain man weighs one 
hundred and fifty pounds. Words may in- 
deed exceed the facts indefinitely, as they do 
in our customary exaggerations, and in Scho- 
penhauer's brilliant hyperboles. 

His misinterpretations, to use no stronger 
word, are quite as manifest. He has no 
proper understanding of the nature of want. 
Want is not primarily a pain ; it is a kind of 
desire which leads to or stimulates to action. 
And pain is not the essence of life, but im- 
pulse is the essence. Pain is not the char- 
acteristic of life, nor the tendency of life, nor 
the bulk of life. The natural outgoings of 

Examination of Pessimism. 63 

life, as of a child's spontaneous activities, are 
the overflows of energy, and are joyous. 
Many young animals, and most of all the 
healthy human child, spend years together in 
almost unmixed delight. And how often 
do we of all ages have pleasures arising from 
no preceding state of pain, but moving on 
from one joy to another, before we have 
time to be tired of any one, and continuing 
in a long series, with no evil in the whole 
list. With some classes of our joys (of 
eye and ear) there are almost no pains to 
speak of. 

The fact is merely that pain is associated 
with some of our life and is the condition of 
some life ; it is grossly misrepresented when 
it is said to be the substance of life or the 
condition of all life. 

While there are no exact statistics as to 
whether pain is the bulk of life, there are 
important signs. Thus health and normal 
structure are more common than disease and 
deformity ; and the universe (on the whole) 
is adapted to our growth and development, 
for it has brought us to the stage in which 

64 The Goodness of God. 

we are. Then as intelligence increases we 
are increasing our means of avoiding pain, by 
medicine and surgery and anaesthetics, also 
the means of enhancing pleasure. Compare 
the varied and intense joys of civilized life 
with the dull monotony of the savage ; com- 
pare the symphony orchestra and the grand 
opera of the one, with the tom-tom and the 
mad shrieks of the devil-dancer of the other. 
Such a comparison is vital to the whole 
question ; for, to be happy is to have that 
which we most like. And we do prefer the 
advanced, the higher, the modern. We like 
the New York city of to-day better than the 
village of wigwams that once stood on Man- 
hattan Island. The pessimist calls this a 
crazy preference, but he cannot deny that we 
have our preference — and one could not de- 
clare it crazy except on the presupposition 
that progress is evil, and that is to assume 
the point in dispute. 

One more sign. — Our mental constitution 
is adapted to good and not to evil. Good 
has a value for us ; it is a thing to be desired 
and worked for as an end. Evil can have 

Examination of Pessimism. 65 

no value in itself, it can be nothing more 
than a means. It is because we are built for 
good that we do not easily understand the 
presence of evil. If we were built for evil 
we should then have a problem of good, and 
should be inquiring how we can harmonize 
it with our constitution. 

But why multiply examples? It is in 
general by such distortions of fact and twist- 
ing of reason that the pessimist reaches his 
conclusion by some peculiar intellectual per- 
versity, not by evidence rationally treated. 
Wholesome minds do not see things as he 
sees them, nor reason as he reasons. The 
wise of all times have, with hardly an ex- 
ception, been optimists. 

To the normal mind, " the trend of things 
is so clearly toward virtue that many have 
claimed that virtue and utility are really the 
same, and indeed if we extend utility to in- 
clude the satisfaction of the moral nature, there 
is no disputing them." 1 The fair-minded 
historian and critic remarks the " utterly 
flimsy and meretricious character of Hart- 

1 Bowne, Philos. of Theism, pp. 219-20. 

66 The Goodness of God. 

mann's examination of human life." l The 
same might be said of Schopenhauer's 
argument for pessimism. We must conclude 
with Sully and Bowne and Flint and the rest, 
that " pessimism is not a philosophy but a 
temperament." 2 

Secondly, the conclusions of the pessimist 
are often vitiated by a false a priori assumption 
as to the nature of God. He thinks of God 
as acting with totally unlimited possibilities 
before him. All his considerable objections 
to theodicy derive their power from this false 
assumption. When, for instance, from the 
existence of pain, and especially undeserved 
pain in the world, it is inferred that God is 
cruel, the inference is fully justified only by 
assuming that God could have done his work 
without pain. 

But if, on the other hand, some things are 
in the nature of the case impossible, then we 
do not know a priori that the avoidance of 
pain is one of the things possible. So long 
as the pessimist is allowed to reason from the 

1 Sully, pp. 247-8. 

2 Nordau, Degeneration, p. 498 (Appleton's Ed., 1895). 

Examination of Pessimism. 67 

doctrine of the " Absolute God/' he prevails 
against theodicy of every kind. 

But rational theologians see reason to be- 
lieve that there is no such God. On the 
contrary, God is limited to the possible. It 
would seem that the attacks on theodicy 
nearly all fail by this common defect in their 
premise. Let that erroneous doctrine of 
Absolutism be removed, and then, in order 
to prove that God is unkind, one must 
prove that some pain which he has chosen 
was avoidable to the profit of men. Such a 
task the pessimist has not undertaken. 

Summary. — The pessimist has accom- 
plished two results : he has destroyed his 
own case by tricking with the facts, and by 
using them irrationally, and by relying too 
largely on a philosophical error ; he has also 
destroyed the ordinary theodicy, which was 
founded on the same a priori assumption, 
which is by his work brought into still graver 

Some applications. — Before turning to the 
positive portion of the case for optimism, we 
may do well to observe more definitely some 

68 The Goodness of God. 

of the changes in reasoning which are made 
necessary., both to optimist and to pessimist, 
by setting aside the thought of absolute 
omnipotence, and by regarding God as acting 
under limitations in the nature of things, 
which arise from his own nature. 

From our present point of view, when we 
observe that bad men prosper and good men 
suffer, that one man has a desirable lot in 
life, and another no less deserving has an 
undesirable lot, we cannot at once say God 
is unjust ; in order to say that, we must first 
prove that these bad things could have been 
otherwise, without still greater injury to men. 

Or, again, it being undecided how much 
evil is unavoidable, one cannot " blame God 
for not interfering to stop the cruelties of 
Caligula and Nero." For, the critic sees 
that God did intervene (those bad men are 
dead long ago), and he can only complain 
that the Lord did not interfere sooner, 
whereas God evidently thought otherwise. 
There is merely an unfortunate difference of 
opinion between them. 

And again, it was thought that evil ends 

Examination of Pessimism. 69 

are manifest in nature, since capacity for 
pain and provision for pain are plainly by 
God's intention. But by our new light we 
see that, in the continuous flow of cause and 
effect, all ends in nature are also means to 
other ends. The question then at once 
arises whether the evil in certain events 
comes from their nature as causes, or from 
their nature as ends. The pessimist's case 
n'ow depends on his proving that there is, in 
nature, some end which is evil, and that he 
has not proved. 

A limitation of the better conception must 
also be noticed. The antecedent possibility 
of evil, the possibility that God may be the 
cause of some pain, does not include the 
doctrine that God may be the cause of sin, 
although many of the doctors have so held 
or implied. 

Thus Bushnell : " How much better and 
more consonant also with our feeling to sup- 
pose that there is some antecedent necessity 
inherent in the conception of finite and 
begun existence, that in their training as 
powers they should be passed through the 

7<d The Goodness of God. 

double experience of evil and good, fall and 
redemption." l Bushnell is quite right that 
pain (physical evil) is necessary ; but there 
is no evidence that sin (moral evil, the 
" fall ") is necessary. All that can be al- 
leged in this regard is that man must be 
made free to sin, not that he must necessa- 
rily sin. Most theologians seem unable to 
make the distinction, yet it must be insisted 

The doctrine appears in many forms. It 
is often said that " the problem of evil is to 
justify sin." Not at all. Sin never was 
just, and never can be just, nor justified. 
There is no such problem in theodicy, nor 
anywhere else. It proposes a contradiction 
of terms. 

If now we can be rid of such errors of 
common speech, our ground will be more 
nearly cleared. 


The primary basis of theodicy reaches 
back to the doctrine that the First Cause is 

1 Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 132. 

The Positive Basis of Optimism. 71 

Mind. Now minds are such things as be- 
come aware of moral distinctions and assign 
value to them, and are moved to action 
thereby. So the infinite mind must be moral, 
and, in the very meaning of the words, the 
infinite moral is good. This is our starting 
point, and the primary indication of the 
truth of optimism. 

In the second place, it is held that we in- 
stinctively and intuitively praise the goodness 
of the First Cause. "In my conscience, I 
perceive that the condemnation of God rests 
on evil, and that God is altogether good." 
Probably the same essential fact is called by 
another, the " Christian Consciousness," 
which by nature spontaneously has faith in 
the good and in its triumph. Thus we see 
that optimism arises partly from our temper. 
Just as we were saying that pessimism has its 
real basis in a morose disposition, so we now 
say optimism has at least a portion of its 
basis in a cheerful disposition. And it may 
rationally be so, if, as Professor James says 
in his " Will to Believe " : " Pessimism is a 
disease. It leads to weakness and death. 

j 2 The Goodness of God. 

But hope and faith are normal and healthy, 
they give strength and character and man- 
hood and effectiveness." In action they 
mean courage, and force, and endurance, 
patience, triumph, victory. Therefore, op- 
timism is good and true, and therefore pessi- 
mism is wrong and untrue. 

Accordingly, Browning " will credit what 
suits his hopes and not his fears. The heart 
having a natural interest or function in faith, 
has rights there." And Ritschl l accepts 
theism and the Christian religion because of 
their " value." 

Authorities. — Not Genesis alone promises 
that man's heel shall crush the serpent's 
head ; the same thought finds expression in 
every great literature ; in the Pandora myth, 
Hope is left to men ; in the Norse legend, 
Balder the Good is to rise again after the 
great battle is fought and wickedness has 
been destroyed, and will come forth and 
reign forever in peace and righteousness ; in 
one reading of the gloomy theology of 

1 Justification and Reconciliation (Scribners, 1900), pp. 203- 
II, etc. 

The Positive Basis of Optimism. 73 

Chaldea, Ishtar, 1 the goddess of love, seeks 
her lost one through all the torments of hell ; 
and she finds him and brings him back to an 
endless life of joy, and, what is notable, all 
her divine gifts which she had to lay aside 
one after another as she penetrated to deeper 
and deeper recesses of the lower world, are 
restored to her. Love, though at so great a 
cost (temporary cost), had triumphed over 
death and hell. 

Likewise pantheism, which exists in some 
form or other, secretly or openly in nearly 
all religions, teaches a return of all things to 
God and a cessation of the world-processes, 
an absorption into the infinite and blissful 
One. Even Buddha, chief of pessimists, 
foresaw Nirvana, perfect rest and bliss. 

In spite of his philosophy, the modern 
pessimist writes on the Comforts of Pessi- 
mism ; and its latest champion summarizes 
life as a draught of wormwood which he stirs 
and " drinks healing," 2 and finds that after 
all, the best we can learn of the form and 

1 Maspero, Dawn of Civilization, p. 696. 

2 Deussen, Elements of Metaphysics, 

74 The Goodness of God. 

substance of a religion is the Bible and true 
Christianity. 1 

Similarly the agnostic Huxley represents 
life as a game of chess, " the chess board is 
the world, the pieces are the forces of the 
universe, the rules of the game are what we 
call the laws of nature. The player on the 
other side is hidden from us. We know 
that his play is always fair, just and patient. 
But also we know, to our cost, that he never 
overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest 
allowance for ignorance. To the man who 
plays well, the highest stakes are paid, with 
that sort of overflowing generosity with which 
the strong show delight in strength. And 
one who plays ill is checkmated, without 
haste, but without remorse . . . Not the 
mocking fiend, but a calm, strong angel 
playing for love (as we say) who would rather 
lose than win," is he who plays with us. 

Better still, the multitude of those whom 
the common sense and mature judgment of 
the world have come to regard as normal and 
wholesome and competent in wisdom are 

1 Deussen, Elements of Physics, pp. 244-45. 

The Positive Basis of Optimism. 75 

professed optimists — Socrates, Plato, Mar- 
cus Aurelius, the Psalmist, Isaiah, Job, Jesus, 
Paul, John, and many of later times. Such 
are the chief experts in all great questions of 
morals, and their united and concurring in- 
tuition and judgment must receive great re- 
spect from all serious minds. As for the 
rest of us, ordinary mortals, our nature is so 
far advanced that we cannot believe the forms 
of nature can ever do an unmathematical 
thing, say, make 2X2 = 5; but these great 
experts have the same absolute confidence 
that the forces of nature can never do a 
wicked thing. The religion of a healthy 
mind is optimism. 

It seems just also to add that our confi- 
dence in the correctness of the expert's judg- 
ment is growing; this we more and more 
recognize in psychology and philosophy, in 
business and politics and social affairs. 
Optimism is found to be the right " working 

Because of the visible and undeniable 
practical tendencies of these two theories, 
Professor James, in the book just quoted, 

j 6 The Goodness of God. 

says : " Those who think that science (as 
commonly understood) is agnostic in theod- 
icy must allow the immense practical value 
of optimism to tip the scales for them and 
to decide their minds and their wills for that 
theory — because also, even to remain in the 
state of agnosticism on this great subject is 
profoundly mischievous." 

Inductive {a posteriori) considerations. — 
That God is good is also to be concluded 
from a now very extensive examination of 
his works in particular. First, lest in our 
study of small things, we overlook great and 
most significant things, let it be noted that 
many of the chief facts and laws of life are 
good and desirable — nearly all of us would 
say the overwhelming majority are so ; but 
let us assume only what none can deny. 

Secondly, a great number of apparent ex- 
ceptions to goodness are found on fuller 
knowledge to be really beneficent. Thus 
the utilities of pain (physical evil) are found 
to be that it is (i) a warning of danger; (2) 
a stimulant to action ; (3) a dissuasion from 
sin ; (4) an offset to pleasure by which pleas- 

The Positive Basis of Optimism. J J 

ure is intensified, and (5) it has chastening, 
mellow effect on character. Perhaps there 
are still other uses which we have not yet 
discovered. We cannot, however, see that 
every single pain is useful and is justified. 
We can only say we have found so many 
to be right and just, that we may reason- 
ably infer that if we were wiser we should 
find all to be of the same character. 

We are further confirmed in this by the 
plain fact that the good is gaining advantage. 
Historians have shown that on the average, 
human life of to-day is twice as long as that 
of the Middle Ages. And the man of to- 
day suffers less if he will avail himself of 
the conveniences of civilization, and enjoys 
a great deal more than the man of three 
hundred years ago. For one item, the 
dreadful epidemics, bodily and mental, that 
swept over the people of those days are 
mostly impossible to-day, and, speaking gen- 
erally, in their place reign peace and the 
useful arts. 

As to the real tendency of the world as a 
whole, the sober opinion to which wise men 

7 8 The Goodness of God. 

have come is well expressed by one of them. 
" I think it can be shown that the principles 
of morality have their roots in the deepest 
foundations of the universe, that the cosmic 
process is ethical in the profoundest sense, 
that in that far-off morning of the world, 
when the stars sang together and the sons of 
God shouted for joy, the beauty of self- 
sacrifice and disinterested love formed the 
chief burden of the mighty theme." 1 

Conclusion in general terms. — Thus tak- 
ing as large and just a view as we can of the 
substance of things, and reasoning both de- 
ductively and inductively, we seem com- 
pelled to believe that the order of the world 
is beneficent, and therefore God is good. 

But a more special statement of the theory 
seems demanded, and to that we now turn. 


The conditions of the problem which the 
Manager of the universe ever has before him 
are somewhat as follows : Man in a state of 

1 Fiske, Through Nature to God, p. 79. 

The Theory of Optimism. 79 

nature, weak, dependent, in bondage, igno- 
rant, dull, a sinner, — how shall he be 
changed so as to be strong, free, wise, alert, 
sensitive, and a saint ? Now, the world as 
we know it is a contrivance for accomplish- 
ing the change. It partakes of the charac- 
ter of a gymnasium, in which men attain 
power by exercise. 

Power is the first necessity to be provided 
for. In order to make sure that men will 
take a proper amount of exercise, various 
desires are planted in human nature, such as 
hunger and thirst, and possible pleasures are 
placed before them to call forth effort and to 
arouse intelligence in finding means to attain 
the pleasures. But God, who gives some 
gifts, must wisely withhold others, lest man 
be surfeited. And this very withholding is 
a gift. 

. . . Yet let him keep the rest, 
But keep them with repining restlessness: 
Let him be rich and weary, that at least, 
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness 
May toss him to my breast." 1 

1 George Herbert. 

8o The Goodness of God. 

Were the Gospel to offer satisfaction with 
the present life or attainment, Jesus could 
not say, " I came that they might have a 
more abundant life," but " I came that they 
might be more content with the present, 
and therefore have a less abundant life." 
So it is found that pleasures are not adequate 
stimulus ; for man would rather limit his 
gratifications than exert himself very much. 
He is inclined to do just enough to get along 
from day to day. Stupidity pervades him ; 
and an old proverb says, Against stupidity, 
the gods themselves contend unvictorious. 
Therefore man must be driven harder than 
by desire for pleasure. Socrates repre- 
sented the state as a noble horse, but indo- 
lent, and himself as a divinely appointed 
gadfly ; so must we all be stung into action. 
We must have pain, sickness, strife, violence; 
and if we still are slow, we must be moved 
upon at length by transcendental terrors. 
How else shall we be induced to put forth 
the energy necessary to our growth ? 

We naturally tend to make light of life, 
and incline to regard it as a feast, or per- 

The Theory of Optimism. 8 1 

haps a farce or a comedy — and these doubt- 
less are good in their places. But life is a 
tragedy and must be so. How often has 
the church cultivated an easy-going opti- 
mism : " God is good, there is nought to fear ; 
or, it will be all right to those who do God's 
will ; you have only to believe in Christ, 
and his merits will be credited to you, and 
triumph and joy and bliss will be secured. " — 
Be not deceived. These also have their value 
but they are not enough; toil and trouble 
must yet be added. Jordan is still a hard 
road to travel — whether one journeys on 
the path that lies in the Promised Land 
or on the other, in the coasts of the 

Quality of life. — But experience, the dis- 
cipline of labor and pleasure and pain, have 
a higher office than the increase of energy. 
There is a subtle efficiency, especially in pain, 
to bring forth a finer quality of grace and joy, 
and indeed also a supreme strength. Often 
it is found that the 

" tears of the mournful eve, 
Tomorrow are gems of the morning." 

82 The Goodness of God. 

Perhaps we cannot explain how it was, but 
Coleridge wrote : 

" She loves me best whene'er I sing 
The songs that make her grieve." 

Those who have suffered deeply have most 
right to speak on this topic. Read the story 
of Joanna Ambrosius, who was accustomed 
to toil and hardship and grief from the first. 
Being of sensitive nature she felt them keenly, 
and so pursued love and joy all her life, but 
never overtook them. In her simple way 
she tells how once for a long time her muse 
had left her and brought her no more songs. 
But at last one day came pain and sat beside 
her, and somehow her songs returned — un- 
til, looking closer, she recognized in pain her 
long lost muse, and kissed him tenderly, and 
sings his praises, as of her beloved. There 
was no other way by which genius could be 
evoked; and seeing it was so, she gave thanks 
for her griefs. 

Relations of the one to the many. — But now 
we must observe that the further develop- 

The Theory of Optimism. 83 

ment of man, both expansion and refinement, 
both intellectual and moral, is conditioned on 
the establishment of social relations. In the 
cold language of ethics, altruism is an essen- 
tial part of the complete or right character. 
It is necessary that man should cease to fol- 
low his natural impulses regardless of others, 
and even that he should have impulses to 
regard others. He must learn to find joy in 
the welfare of his neighbors and in serving 
their needs. This is necessary both to his 
growth and to theirs ; and therefore in order 
to lead man along the higher way of life 
supreme joys have been set before him in this 
direction to entice him on. Mr. Sully says: 
In fact the greatest source of happiness is the 
source of the higher volitional restraint which 
is cultivated by constant contact with society ; 
and the greatest possible development of the 
power to enjoy and the greatest realization of 
joy comes by that same altruism. 

To this end of such profound import, pro- 
visions and plans were made from afar, even 
in geologic ages ; instincts, necessities and 
conveniences were prepared. Perhaps the 

84 The Goodness of God. 

distant beginnings of altruism are not to be 
distinguished from self-regard. For instance, 
it was arranged that one being should be born 
of another ; and so a mother who by nature 
must love herself and her own affairs came to 
love her child because it was hers. So it has 
been suggested that in mother-love was the 
first departure from absolute selfishness. An- 
other advance was made when we discovered 
the value of other people's unselfishness to- 
ward us. It was more pleasant to receive 
than to give, so we praised unselfishness and 
cultivated it in our neighbors, and ordained 
it as a sacred law. 

Thus the earlier movements in this order 
were by necessity and the inviolate laws of 
nature. Men found that even their physical 
wants could not be gratified except by a di- 
vision of labor, and by other and increas- 
ing interdependence. In the structure of 
nature we are members one of another, and 
if one member suffers, all the members 
suffer with it ; and if one is exalted, all are 
profited. This necessity is provided for 
mechanically in a large part of our life, lest 

The Theory of Optimism. 85 

man in his ignorance and malice may wan- 
tonly destroy all things and defeat the pur- 
pose of God. 

Behold the imperious ways of Divine 
Love. It assumes to know what we need, 
and to have authority. It did not ask us 
whether we would like to be born ; it sought 
not our consent, nor counsel, nor wishes. And 
when we have been born, and have tried life 
for a while and perchance do not like it, and 
are ready to say with Seneca, " Death is the 
best invention of nature," yet we cannot avail 
ourselves of it, for not even in death can we 
escape from life and from God. We are 
brought forth into this world, and sent to its 
school like heedless and naughty boys, where 
the rod is not spared, and where we are com- 
pelled to learn our lessons — doomed to be, 
and doomed to become ; and some have 
added " doomed to be saved." 

In the process of our schooling, pain and 
sorrow have a divine office in the cultivation 
of sympathy. To be sure, if there were no 
evil we might still rejoice with those that do 
rejoice ; but to mourn with those that mourn 

86 The Goodness of God. 

is a finer quality of sympathy, and it could 
not be but for the world of grief. 

Still further, sympathy for merited pains, 
as where the sinner is being punished, is com- 
paratively slight and cool ; a supreme quality 
is called out only by undeserved pain. 

The central difficulty. — That the inno- 
cent should suffer, as they do, and that, not 
merely a little, but much, often unto death — 
this is the greatest difficulty in theodicy. If 
there is anything to be compared with this, 
it is the existence of sin in the world. But 
we can explain sin : man did it. When, how- 
ever, by the unavoidable laws of nature, the 
guiltless are wracked with pain, it is God who 
does it, or at least has so provided and in- 
tended. How can such an act be explained 
as coming from a good God ? 

The explanation we were just giving is 
that such a method is necessary in order to 
reach a certain moral result in character. 
That is to say, God has done evil that good 
may come ! — One may well exclaim, Is this 
theodicy ? And the sad reply is, there was 
no other way to reach the result ; if there 

The Theory of Optimism. 87 

had been a pleasanter way, God would cer- 
tainly have chosen it. No wonder men have 
asked whether the prize was worth what it 
cost ? To this question, however, wise men 
have answered, Yes ; and in the facts of nature 
we have God's answer. 

A more particular study may justify the 
answer. Thus when it is known that the 
innocent must suffer with the guilty, several 
consequences follow. For example, a sinner 
is often restrained because he foresees that 
his mother would be grieved, or his friend 
offended, or his country harmed, or his child 
dishonored, corrupted or misled. 

Then again, in the cruelties that are 
heaped on the unoffending by the hand of 
nature, or by man with nature's permission, 
there is for us not a physical pain nor a 
mental pain, as of wounded pride, but a 
moral pain, our conscience is offended, our 
whole moral nature is shocked. It is only 
when in an advanced stage of our soul, with 
large intelligence and fine conscience, we 
see and feel how terribly wrong the 
world is, that we are roused to great effort 

88 The Goodness of God. 

to make it better. Though at first we 
may rebel and exclaim, " cursed be the 
spite that ever I were born to set it right," 
yet at last when the facts have become 
unendurable, we are driven to take up the 
cause of perishing virtue and honor and 
righteousness, and to put forth greater 
moral energy than could otherwise be devel- 
oped in us. There was danger that we be 
" tolerably " well satisfied with the ordinary 
life, and therefore we are made intolerably 
dissatisfied with it. 

Yea, perhaps, as Browning says, it is 
appointed that some of us should be uncer- 
tain that God is good, in order that we 
may not cease effort. If we knew, if there 
were no doubt of the issues of life, we 
might settle down to inactivity and rely too 
much on God or our sure destiny, and so 
lose its blessing after all. It is claimed 
that only when men (of lesser faith) fear 
that God will abandon some of his chil- 
dren to destruction in hell, that they are 
moved to prevent his doing so, and there- 
fore send missionaries, at great expense, or 

The Theory of Optimism. 89 

even go forth as missionaries themselves to 
save the heathen. In this effort and self- 
sacrifice both the Christian and the heathen 
are saved ; when, but for our distrust of 
God, both would be lost. So, temporary 
doubt may lead to a better faith, as some 
kinds of sickness clear the blood and leave 
us in better health. Accordingly, the poet 
sees in pessimism, skepticism, and despair a 
new proof of the existence and goodness of 
God, being, as they are, wise devices for 
training up faith and hope stronger and 
surer than else were possible. Paradoxical 
as it may seem, the very existence of evil, 
with its ominous threatenings and its power 
to distract and distress us, is itself the 
answer to its own question, for only against 
despair can hope rise to its greatest height ; 
and only against all the power of evil can 
love come to its glorious victory and per- 

But before we attain perfection another 
element of character must be called forth 
and disciplined. Necessity, in the order of 

90 The Goodness of God. 

which the preceding has been mostly stated, 
is not adequate to morals. Free choice must 
be allowed and cultivated. Therefore, a de- 
parture from pure mechanicalism was made, 
in what we still call the "hard necessities 
of pain." The ways that are not good for 
us were filled with pain, that we might freely 
avoid them. And if we do not observe the 
sign of God's displeasure, pains are heaped 
up unto what often amounts to compulsion 
again. But not by violence can the loftiest 
heights of character be reached. For these 
results it is requisite that we should be will- 
ing to suffer that which we have not de- 
served, and to undertake labors which are 
not due from us, to work for those who 
will not pay us, nor give thanks, but abuse 

" Take up the white man's burden 
And reap his old reward — 
The blame of those ye better, 
The hate of those ye guard." 

Such unwelcome tasks must be freely 
undertaken ere we reach perfection. If 
there were no such tasks, no injustice, no 

The Theory of Optimism. 91 

cruelty, no innocent suffering, then the per- 
fection of human tenderness and sympathy 
could not be. 

Thus it seems that the climax of our own 
development, and the climax of efficiency for 
influencing others to their betterment are 
reached in the same act. Those who have 
had experience in evangelical work have de- 
clared that the spectacle of unrequited labors 
and undeserved suffering (on Calvary or else- 
where) is the greatest of all reforming and 
saving motives. The supreme effort of the 
will, by which it submits to that which is 
cruel and unjust in order to benefit others, 
is at once self-denial and self-assertion, and 
also becomes the most honorable, beautiful, 
attractive, persuasive. Thus supreme egoism 
and supreme altruism are conjoined. And 
in no other way could they be attained. 

" He hath borne our griefs and carried 
our sorrows. He was wounded for our 
transgressions, he was bruised for our iniq- 
uities : the chastisement of our peace was 
laid on him " : by this he was perfected, and 
by this we are healed. 

92 The Goodness of God. 

So much came by unjust suffering ; and its 
story cannot be spared from the record, be- 
cause its image cannot be spared from the 
ideal of character, nor its potency from the 
forces that contend against evil and in behalf 
of righteousness. 

Future life, and God 's life : The Transcen- 
dental. — But the newer theodicists have not 
done with us yet. They foresee that the 
future must be like the past. The same 
law by which we came to this place and 
time must prevail everywhere and forever. 
A growing life (and we must always grow) 
must, in the nature of the case, have its 
periods of conflict. Yea, more still, when 
we have attained to love, we shall find love 
itself is not all peace. Love is that which 
" suffereth long . . . beareth all things, believ- 
eth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all 
things "; and because of these it is the greatest 
of all things. 

Accordingly the bold prophets of the new 
theodicy declare not only that evil must be 
in our human life here and hereafter, but in 
the divine life also. Whether or not the 

The Theory of Optimism. 93 

reasoning may be carried so far, as by Mr. 
Hinton, Dr. C. C. Hall, and Professor 
Royce, let those say who know. At any 
rate these men tell us that this law is uni- 
versal; the good must suffer now and always, 
the whole creation groans and travails ; Christ 
was crucified from the foundation of the 
world ; God enters into all our sorrows and 
griefs and pains so fully that he suffers 
exactly as we do ; he is in hell with all that 
make their bed in hell, and he strives with 
us against the powers of evil ; " He sends 
not sorrow and trouble, he sends sym- 
pathy." And only when we consent that 
he shall bear our burden with us, does the 
yoke become easy and the burden light. 

Yet, after all, the burden is a dreadful 
one. When it was laid on Christ, he could 
not carry it, and the soldiers compelled 
one Simon of Cyrene to carry it for him. 
But it is also said that on the same cross he 
was then lifted up, in order that he might 
draw all men unto him ; and, for the joy 
of doing so, he had consented to all the 

94 The Goodness of God, 

This, we are told, is the eternal way of 


First, we have fully recognized the power 
of the pessimist's argument : we have sought 
to know and declare the worst. We can no 
longer be accused of a "Jesuitical attempt to 
defend (or gloss over) moral enormities/' 1 
We acknowledge also that the old theodicy 
is dead. So much the pessimist has effec- 
tively accomplished. 

Secondly, on examining his evidence and 
arguments, we find grave errors in phil- 
osophy and logic. His fundamental con- 
ception as to the nature of the First Cause 
is irrational and unthinkable. In the state- 
ment of facts he has grossly exaggerated the 
evil, he has taken the part for the whole, and 
has misrepresented the part. After all, he 
has not so much reasoned as scolded. 

Thirdly, we have tried to remove some of 
the rubbish which the contending parties 

1 Mill's Three Essays, pp. 186-87. 

Summary, with Reference to Nature. 95 

have brought together, and we have looked 
around for real and valid material with which 
to construct a theory of things as they are. 
To begin with, we find that there is a nature 
of things, and that accordingly some things 
are possible and some are not. This nature 
came from God's, its processes are his pro- 
cesses, and its fundamental limitations are his. 
In essentials this is the best possible world. 
If there is any evil in it that comes apart from 
men's wills, it is so because it could not be 
wisely avoided, and if any by man's will, it 
is because man so wills, and because he must 
be allowed free choice. 

Contemplating the conditions under which 
the great work of this world seems to be 
undertaken, we cannot see how the perfection 
of character could be otherwise reached than 
by allowing evil a measure of power over the 
righteous, and indeed such a measure as may 
at times involve the suffering of the innocent. 
That is to say, so far as we can see, God had 
the alternative : either give up the attempt to 
perfect the human character, or allow man 
to be a fiend to some extent, to do all the 

g6 The Goodness of God, 

terrible things in history and the more terrible 
things that could not be written, in order that 
good may come — " at last, far off, at last, 
to all." 

But if God must allow evil in the world, 
he has also utilized it to its own destruction, 
making it a servant of righteousness. God 
so arranged his plan as to use the ills of nature, 
and the cruelties of man toward man, for the 
training and discipline of the race. As often 
as " they mean it for evil he means it (or will 
use it) for good." 

Such a plan, however, will inevitably have 
on the surface the appearance of designing or 
intending evil. Just as a prudent man en- 
gaged in a dangerous business takes out an 
accident policy ; and when unavoidable sick- 
ness or calamity befalls, he collects the insur- 
ance and pays the doctor's bills, and so makes 
the best of it. But he did not bring on the 
accident for that purpose, and he would have 
prevented it if possible. 

Conclusion of the Argument from Nature. — 
While, therefore, God is not the author of 
sin, and while " He doth not willingly afflict 

Summary, with Reference to Nature. 97 

nor grieve the children of men ; " yet for wise 
reasons he has turned over to man a region 
of life where he may learn to be master, lord 
and creator, but where he sometimes prefers 
to be devil. That is the full account of sin. 
And as for other evil, to the question, Does 
God send trouble? we can only reply, Yes, 
such as he must. So Scripture and nature 
teach in terms not to be voided nor doubted. 
You may call this "necessity" or "limitation 
of God's power" — yet also, in the sequel, 
he triumphs over necessity and makes it serve 
him. And all this severity which he "is 
compelled" to use is "but the wisdom of his 
love" by which he will make us glad accord- 
ing to the days wherein he has afflicted us 
and the years wherein we have seen evil. 
God is love. 

98 The Goodness of God. 



Definitions The second attack on the 

character of God is made mostly by " ortho- 
dox" authorities and is based on a consider- 
ation of the divine attributes themselves. We 
therefore begin the study of this variety of 
pessimism with definition of the attributes 

Righteousness is defined as conformity to 
the moral law. 

Justice, by some regarded as the same, is 
more often used in a narrower sense, as right- 
eousness in executing or administering the 
law, or specifically in dealing with sin. 

Holiness, in creatures especially, is not 
quite the same as righteousness. It differs 
in both meaning and application. Right- 
eousness is applied to persons only (and to 
their acts), and holiness is applied to persons 

Theological Pessimism. 99 

and things, as to the priests and the imple- 
ments of the Temple of the Church. Sec- 
ondly, righteousness is conformity to stand- 
ards, while holiness means consecrated to 
God and sacred to him, or worthy of rever- 
ence and honor. Something of this distinc- 
tion is retained when the words apply to God. 
He is righteous as carrying out the law and 
exemplifying it ; he is holy as the being whom 
we ought to revere and honor. 

Goodness has a large meaning, which in- 
cludes all moral excellence of whatever name; 
and a smaller meaning, about which there is 
some difference of opinion — to be noted 

Love has less often the same large mean^- 
ing with goodness, and more often the limited 
meaning. It will therefore be convenient, 
under the word love, to study the variations 
of opinion which now require attention. 


i. Is God's love different from ours ? — Some 
allege that God's love must be different from 
our human love, in two great and essential 

ioo The Goodness of God. 

respects : it is infinite, and it is wise. On 
general principles, they say, the infinite must 
be radically, and otherwise, so unlike the 
finite that there can be no comparison be- 
tween them ; and " we might better use an- 
other name for the faculty in God which cor- 
responds to love in man." Or, if we continue 
to use the same word, we must reckon with 
the fact that the deeds of a loving man bear 
no resemblance to those of a loving God ; or 
what a man would call unlovely might be 
done by a God of love. 

To all such reasoning the reply of Dr. 
Momerie seems to be complete and final. 
He says that as infinite space and finite space 
are not two different things, nor even two 
kinds of space, but are simply more and less ; 
and as infinite time and finite time are more 
and less time, so infinite love and finite love 
are more and less love. In the oft-repeated 
words of the poet, — 

" Nothing can be good in him 
Which evil is in me." 

To these, we may add, when we have 

Theological Pessimism. I o i 

looked over the whole ground, that all the 
reasons we have for believing that God is 
good are reasons for believing that he is 
good and loving in our sense of the words. 

This is especially true with regard to the 
claim that God's goodness or love is different 
from ours in that it is wise. They say that a 
good man would incline to forgive all sin, 
remit punishment and receive the criminal 
into free grace ; but God sees the danger of 
such dealing with sin, and knows that the 
welfare of all calls for a very different treat- 
ment of the sinner. 

This distinction is evidently set up between 
the wise God and the foolish man. Between 
these two there is a difference of kind ; but 
between the wise God and a wise man, there 
is no such distinction. The wise human 
judge does not discharge all prisoners that 
come before him ; but so well as he can he 
judges who is guilty, and imposes on him a 
fitting punishment, having in mind the wel- 
fare of the prisoner and the best interests of 
all people. The real difference between God 
and the wise human judge is that God sees 

102 The Goodness of God. 

more of the nature of things and the interests 
of men and sees them more accurately, and 
can therefore more wisely direct the machin- 
ery of justice and law. This is not a differ- 
ence of kind but of degree. Both of them 
act, to the extent of their ability, as wise 
lovers of mankind and of righteousness. 

When we say that God is good or loving, 
we mean exactly (except for degree) what we 
mean when we say the same of man. So far, 
then, we are on familiar ground. People are 
more and more accustomed to this manner of 

All classes of thinkers, orthodox and hete- 
rodox, scientist, philosopher, agnostic, Chris- 
tian and pagan, can be quoted to the same 
effect. Only the out and out pessimists and 
their kind object. Outside the Church men 
criticise the older and sterner notions of the 
Deity and declare that " God must at least 
be a gentleman," and that " we may trust 
the nobleness of the unknown." ! Herbert 
Spencer 2 protests against the common notion 

1 Holyoake, Trial of Theism, p. iv. 

2 First Principles (Ed. 1 900), p. 123. 

Theological Pessimism, 103 

of punishment as vindictive; "that which is 
called punishment is exhibited in nature as 
beneficent." And within the Church, the 
Fatherhood of God is now preached with all 
the fervor of a new revelation — as indeed it 
is, to many souls that have long been in the 
torment of doubt and fear. 

1. Is God's love finite? — The prevailing 
modes of thought often represent the love of 
God (when the word is used in its human 
meaning) as limited, imperfect, finite. One of 
these modes, which is perhaps less common 
than it formerly was, regards love as limited 
in that it is nothing more or other than 
love — for instance, in that it is not power, 
righteousness, wrath, and so on. That is to 
say, it is " limited to itself," and if limited, 
therefore finite. 

No doubt language can be so used; but 
only at a great disadvantage. For, if love 
were also other attributes, say wrath and hate, 
or were liable to change into them, it would 
thereby lose all worth or value — if not all 
meaning whatsoever. On the other hand, a 
love that is love, and cannot become anything 

104 The Goodness of God, 

else, is the really perfect love, unlimited, in- 
finite. In short, when the word is used in its 
human meaning, then only has it any true 

An equally vain assertion of the finiteness 
of love, as we use the word, is based on its 
lack of self-sufficiency. What is perfect, they 
say, cannot lack anything, but such is the 
nature of love that it needs or must have 
something to love. Thus its very nature 
depends for completeness on another. And 
that which is needy and dependent cannot be 

To this may be replied as before, that in 
an "absolute" meaning the word infinite 
may be so used, but it leads to folly. We 
choose, therefore, another meaning, and since 
the nature of love is to go forth to others, 
therefore a love that is self-sufficient (self 
love) is a distinctly lower grade. In the very 
fact that it does not seek another, it is imper- 
fect, limited, finite. Once more, therefore, we 
must infer that the human love of God is 
infinite in the only fit understanding of the 

Theological Pessimism . 105 

On this point we conclude, then, that in- 
finite love can no more do an unlovely thing 
than infinite knowledge can know that twice 
two is five. 

There is, however, another point of view 
from which it is asserted that there is at least 
one limitation to God's love, namely, the un- 
loveliness of some objects, " It cannot be that 
God loves the man who has willfully made 
himself a brute and a fiend, so much as he 
loves a saint, for the very simple reason that 
such a one is not so lovely as the saint, is 
indeed quite unlovely/' 

Several replies have been made to this, but 
the following seems to put the matter in a 
clear light. It is merely that another varia- 
tion of meaning is involved. Love often 
means no more than to be pleased with a 
beautiful object, but also it means a desire to 
do good. In the first meaning the statement 
of limitation is quite true ; no doubt God 
sees in a hideous monster of human deprav- 
ity a most unpleasing object. But in the 
second meaning God may be none the less a 
lover of the sinner than of the saint. Indeed, 

106 The Goodness of God. 

his love may be all the more active toward 
the sinner; as the faithful mother gives the 
whole energy of love to her unfortunate child 
or to her wayward son, and as we are told in 
the parable, the Good Shepherd will leave the 
ninety and nine that are safe in the fold and 
will go forth to seek the single wanderer. It 
does not appear then that the unloveliness of 
the sinner is a limitation of God's love in the 
sense here contemplated. 

Are love and justice antagonistic ? — The 
chief limitation alleged is to be seen in the 
nature of God as related to sin. It is said, 
his goodness would incline him to pardon all 
sinners irrespective of their guilt, yet his jus- 
tice would lead him to punish them all, as 
they deserve; and therefore in practice he 
makes a compromise ; he punishes some ac- 
cording to justice, and pardons others accord- 
ing to mercy. Thus the doctrine that God 
is love, is limited by the doctrine that " God 
is a consuming fire." 

That this antagonism exists in God's na- 
ture is further attested, they say, by his 
works. Throughout the world, it is mani- 

Theological Pessimism. 107 

fest that evil dominates in the lives of some 
men, and good in others. God is clearly 
actuated by different motives in dealing with 
different men. Still more, in the teaching of 
" orthodoxy/* the different treatment of men 
(blessing some and damning others) is not 
merely of this earth and for a time, but is to 
continue forever. Here, they say, is manifest 
a real permanent, everlasting limitation. 

Quite to the contrary we have seen (in the 
study of theodicy) nothing in the works of 
God that indicates any malice in his dispo- 
sition, nor any defect of goodness. After the 
fullest and fairest consideration, we have de- 
cided that nature at the very worst seems to 
be ordered by a loving mind. We shall, 
therefore, regard that case as closed, and that 
part of the present argument which is drawn 
from nature we shall not here consider as 
having any value toward proving that God's 
love is limited. 

There remains the alleged antagonism in 
the natures of love and justice. What shall 
we say to that ? 

First, that if we are right in understanding 

108 The Goodness of God. 

the works of God this very absence of evi- 
dence favoring antagonism is itself important 
evidence against the existence of such antag- 
onism. In other words, if God had malice 
or even indifference in his disposition, the 
fact would be likely to appear in his works 
and in a manner not explicable on the ground 
of pure benevolence. — But, lest we press 
this consideration beyond the faith of the 
less confident, we turn to the other matters. 
Before the ground is quite clear, I must 
once more protest against a misconception of 
the nature of love. A few pages above, 
theologians were quoted as objecting to the 
comparison of God with a foolish man who 
would forgive all and punish no one. But 
now in this connection they do the very 
thing they objected to, or worse : they de- 
clare that God's goodness is just the kind 
that would discharge all prisoners. I repeat 
therefore that we have no evidence that God 
is any such a being. But in nature and in 
revelation we learn that his love is entirely 
wise, and therefore both tender and severe, 
both kind and just, and infinitely both. It 

Theological Pessimism. 109 

is the lovingkindness 1 of God which renders 
to every man according to his works. God's 
justice and mercy are not two things, but 
one thing, said Peter Lombard. Dr. Sam- 
uel Harris says, cc God is as benevolent in 
punishing as he is in blessing." 

Human intelligence thoroly resents the 
idea of limits in the nature of God ; and the 
conscience refuses to admit any limitation of 
his goodness. Our combined reasons for 
believing in the thorogoing goodwill of 
God are so strong that we seem to have no 
right to so understand love and justice as to 
represent them in antagonism. There can 
be no "war in the members" of God. It 
cannot be true that his love calls for one 
thing and his justice for another, and that 
there is strife between them, and compromise. 
Rather, it must be that the whole God acts 
at once and consistently ; and any intepreta- 
tion of scripture or philosophy, that makes 
them to teach otherwise, is open to suspi- 
cion, to say the least. If, therefore, we 
can find a rational view of the facts, by which 

1 Psalms lxii, 12. 

1 1 o The Goodness of God. 

we can avoid supposing there is confusion in 
God, such a theory would manifestly have 
much to commend it. 

Among the modern "orthodox" the situ- 
ation has been to some extent apprehended. 
Hence they have taught that God really 
loves all and would save all if he could, but 
as a matter of fact he cannot save all his 
children. " He will," they say, " succeed in 
saving some of them, but in order to do 
even that he must allow the others to take 
the consequences of their sin and to perish. 
They perish not because God has not the 
disposition to save them, but because he has 
not the power to save them. 

This theory like that of Leibnitz defends 
God's love at the expense of his power, and 
must be preferred to the alternative of de- 
fending his power at the expense of his love. 
— If there were occasion, I should pursue 
the topic further, and show that, after all, it 
is only in the old and irrational sense that 
power must be regarded as finite. In the 
proper and rational sense God's power is in- 
finite. For the present, however, we are 

Theological Pessimism, 1 1 1 

content to accept the theologians' statement 
that God's alleged failures are not due to his 
lack of love. 

Practical limitations. — I have not found 
in modern theology any other assertion of 
limited divine goodness, which has not been 
fairly included or involved in what has now 
been said ; but there is one remaining con- 
sideration which is often regarded as bearing 
on our main question. It may be expressed 
as follows : " True, God's love is unlimited 
in its nature, but it is limited in effect. For 
example, it is thwarted and insulted by every 
sin of man, pained and defeated by every 
sorrow (especially if undeserved), and it will 
be so forever with reference to every soul 
that shall be finally lost. And it might as 
well be called limited in nature, if it is con- 
stantly and forever balked and defeated ; at 
any rate, it is practically limited." 

Of the nature and occasion of these 
" practical limitations," so far as they are tem- 
porary, we have made adequate study under 
the head of theodicy. They are incident to 
the development of the human race in this 

112 The Goodness of God. 

world; they are parts of the administration 
of the great training school in which we are 
all placed. Some we know are apt pupils 
and make faithful and rapid progress. 
Others are dull, or naughty, in varying de- 
grees. On all of us the great teacher spends 
much labor with patience and sympathy. 

All these may in some sense be called 
limitations. Yet, as I have suggested, the 
absence of them would be greater limitation. 
If God did not labor for and sympathize 
with his needy and afflicted children, then 
indeed he would be imperfect. As the facts 
are, they signify his perfection or infinity. 

The only recourse left to the pessimist, is 
to claim that God's inability to change the 
circumstances (so as to avoid occasions of 
labor and sympathy) is proof of his limita- 
tion of power. — This claim as to power I 
have refused to discuss, protesting however, 
that it is empty. At any rate, it has no 
vital relation to our present purpose, it 
marks no limitation of God's moral nature. 

But, an objector will say, " this may be all 
true of what lasts for a while only ; tempo- 

Theological Pessimism. 1 1 3 

rary obstacles are stepping-stones to higher 
life, but if the delay be eternal, the obstacle 
be insurmountable, then in the very words 
it is no stepping-stone, we can never get it 
under our feet. It will forever block our 
way. It is a real defeat of God, and not a 
mere lower stage in development or educa- 
tion. A temporary defeat may in God's 
wisdom be some day turned into final vic- 
tory. But, of course, no wisdom can change 
a final defeat. If there is anything of that 
description, it is unexplained, it remains for- 
ever a blemish on God's work. It marks a 
serious limitation of his power and wisdom, 
such as amounts to a defeat of his love." 

On the other hand, one may ask whether 
there is any evidence for permanent hin- 
drances, obstacles that even God cannot over- 
come. Certainly the existence of a temporary 
delay is no such evidence. Just as in a 
school that man keeps, the fact that the chil- 
dren have not yet become learned, is no 
proof that they will never become learned ; 
so in the school that God keeps, present im- 
perfections cannot prove endless imperfec- 

1 1 4 The Goodness of God. 

tions. Dr. Hodge used to argue in behalf 
of endless sin and punishment with the ques- 
tion, " How do we know that the reasons 
for the existence of sin here and now may 
not hold for all time, and so justify its exist- 
ence there and forever ? " He might as well 
ask how do we know that the reasons why a 
child is at present ignorant of algebra, may 
not hold forever, and therefore the child will 
never know algebra. 

Equally vain is that other favorite claim 
of " orthodox " pessimists, that real samples 
are found in this life, of men who have 
reached a permanent state of evil character. 
As Joseph Cook used to say, there is " a 
tendency of sin to produce final permanence 
of evil character," which tendency is actually 
realized in many who have pursued a long 
course of sin. Those, at least, have already 
accomplished the defeat of God, which can- 
not be turned into victory. 

In reply, the Universalist appeals to the 
facts — as better understood. No doubt 
there is such a tendency, but there is another 
tendency, older than this, and very power- 

Theological Pessimism, 1 1 5 

fill, even after all the " orthodox " have said 
to the contrary. It is the will of God — 
which may upset calculations that tend to- 
ward evil. 

Moreover, as a matter of fact, there is no 
known case of permanence or fixity in evil. 
On the contrary, a great number of the worst 
men (so far as experts can judge) have been 
reformed. Medical reports show that in ex- 
treme cases the pernicious effects of sin 
reach their natural consummation in the 
complete bondage of the will, the dethrone- 
ment of the intellect and the destruction of 
moral character. Asylums and hospitals 
throng with examples of " criminal insane " 
who have come to that condition by some 
course of vice. Formerly such people were 
thought to be hopelessly lost, but now by 
means of the science of medicine they are 
mostly curable. Dr. R. O. Mason 1 says 
that effects are now produced such as would 
have been thought miraculous a few years 
ago. These marvels are wrought by good 
care, infinite patience, hypnotism, bichloride 

1 North American Review, Oct., 1896, pp. 448-455. 

1 1 6 The Goodness of God. 

of gold, or other medicines and devices 
known to science. A single case may be 
summarized for an example from the report 
of F. W. H. Meyers, secretary of the So- 
ciety for Physical Research. In the sum- 
mer of 1884, there was in the hospital of 
Salpetriere, a young woman of a low type, a 
criminal lunatic, filthy in habits and violent 
in demeanor, and with a lifelong history of 
impurity and theft. One of the physi- 
cians of the hospital staff undertook to 
hypnotize her at a time when she could be 
kept quiet only by a straight-jacket and a 
continual cold douche on her head. For a 
while she would not look at the operator, but 
raved and spat on him. The physician, how- 
ever, kept his face close to hers and followed 
her eyes wherever she moved them. In a 
quarter of an hour she was asleep and under 
some measure of control, tho talking inco- 
herently. Practically nothing was accom- 
plished the first day except the control. This 
experiment was repeated and extended day 
after day and the control increased, until she 
would do some few things sanely while in 

Theological Pessimism. 117 

the hypnotic state, though she raved when 
awake. Gradually, however, the sane action 
was extended into her waking life. At first 
she would do nothing more than such simple 
acts as sweeping her room. These were in- 
creased one by one, until after two years' 
treatment her life is wholly sane, normal, re- 
formed. She is now a new woman and of 
such character that she is trusted as a hospital 
nurse in care of other patients. 

Many other examples might be quoted of 
the healing of moral diseases of the gravest 
order. We are told that more than three- 
quarters of such cases are curable, by means 
already in the hands of man. 

It seems, therefore, entirely legitimate to 
ask a question : If man, with time confined 
to the short span of the life of the body, and 
with a slight knowledge of the laws of life 
and mind, can cure three-fourths of the " per- 
manent " cases, cannot God, with infinite time 
and wisdom, be trusted to cure the other one- 
fourth ? 

It must be a very slender faith that hesi- 
tates over that question. If God's power 

1 1 8 The Goodness of God. 

were limited quite as much as any " orthodox " 
theologian ever dared allege, he must still 
have power enough to save the remaining 
quarter of lost souls. What has become of 
the God that used to be called Almighty, and 
in whose hands men are "as clay in the hands 
of a potter?" The prophet Jeremiah, who 
seems to have had a profound knowledge of 
the power of evil, was yet able to write, 1 
" Thou hast made the heaven and the earth 
by thy great power . . . there is nothing 
too hard for Thee." In modern times only 
" heterodox " prophets talk that way. 

No, those " practical limitations " which are 
supposed to last forever are a mere figment 
of the imagination. Their existence is op- 
posed to every idea of God that in any man- 
ner resembles the God of the Bible. There 
are, indeed, temporary hindrances in the ac- 
complishment of his purposes with men, due 
to human free will. In the words of Dr. 
Gordon, " The grace of God is temporarily 
resistible, ultimately irresistible" — though 
not by compulsion yet by persuasion, which 

1 Jeremiah xxxii, 17. 

Theological Pessimism, 119 

in its cumulative power becomes some day 
" practically " irresistible. Such is the mean- 
ing of words of necessity in every scheme 
containing free will. 

On this point we can, in good reason, 
grant no more to the friends of pessimism, 
than that in God's school some children have 
not yet learned all their lessons. 

Summary of pessimism as a whole. We 
have examined the course of nature, taking 
account of all kinds of evil, and have found 
the works of God are altogether benevolent. 
Secondly, we have considered the attributes 
of God as revealed to his children and have 
found in them no sign of ill nor defeat of 
goodness. All things are at least consistent 
with the theory of goodness, and many things 
are consistent with no other theory, but re- 
quire and enforce the most optimistic and 
joyful faith. 


A suggestion to those who still sit in the 
shadow, — The above is the conclusion to 
which we have come by the use of such in- 
telligence as we have. We are aware, how- 
ever, that others exist who, having the same 
evidence, yet draw a different conclusion. 
But, if the evidence is the same, the different 
conclusion must arise from mental constitu- 
tion, as colored glasses give a tinge to all 
things seen. It was some pigment in 
Schopenhauer's blood that tinged the world 
for him. And there is, I think, something 
the same in the blood of our good friends, 
the professional reformers, who often tell us 
that society is rotten to the core, the world 
is rapidly going to the dogs, and the best 
that any of us can do is to hold it back a 
little, and await the bitter end which is sure 
to come ere long. 


122 Appendix. 

Is it not the same with the theologians, 
with the prophets of evil generally, and with 
the ordinary Christian, embittered with toils 
and cares and hard pressed with evils which 
seem about to destroy him and his beloved ? 
To him the world has seemed to be a fleeting 
show for man's delusion given, it is the king- 
dom of the devil and not of God. To him 
there is either no God at all or a weak one 
who cannot complete what he improvidently 
began to build. To men of that disposition 
I would say it is not in the facts, not in good 
reason, but in some unfortunate element of 
your constitution, that you see nature as 
Schopenhauer sees it, and see man as Nordau 
and Nietzeche see him, and interpret the very 
words of Jesus as containing dire forebodings 
of endless wrath. While this taint remains 
in your blood you will continue to think the 
optimistic temper to be frivolous and its rea- 
soning shallow. You will continue to sus- 
pect and contend against your own better 
instincts, which, because they are fundamen- 
tally Christian are often moving you to take 
a brighter view of the world and of God. 

Appendix. 123 

When in response to those instincts you 
pray that all men may know God from the 
least unto the greatest, you will yet confess 
with sorrow that it cannot be. There is in 
you this contest between your heart's desire 
and your knowledge (as it seems to you) 
based on the traditional understanding of 
certain Scripture texts. But St. Paul teaches 
that the greatest thing is love. And in 
modern days Browning also " shows you a 
more excellent way." He says to the man 
who finds knowledge and love to be in con- 
flict : 

** Wholly distrust thy knowledge, then, and trust, 
As wholly, love allied to ignorance! 
There lies thy truth and safety." 

According to the same principle the leaders 
in the " new anthropology," or study of man, 
have shown us that we ought sometimes to 
be willfully optimistic, to purposely contend 
against the suggestions of evil, and this may 
be especially wise in case those suggestions 
contain anything derogatory to the divine 
perfections. Such is the significance of what 

1 24 Appendix. 

has been quoted from Professor James, to 
the effect that in case our faculties of judg- 
ment cannot decide some question of vital 
interest, we do well to allow our better emo- 
tions to tip the scale and decide for us in 
behalf of the optimistic conclusion. As a 
general truth, the value we give to any vital 
course of reasoning depends largely on tem- 
perament. We do, as a matter of fact, reason 
less by thinking than by feeling ; and, on the 
whole perhaps we ought to do so, yet not to 
the exclusion of thinking. Feeling or pas- 
sion must often decide the reason, and if the 
passion be unmixed holy and righteous, its 
decision will be true and will stand the 
severest tests of logic. 

It must be true — that which we pray for 
with the whole soul, that which has inspired 
the most glorious visions of the saints, that 
of which it is prophesied fC He shall see of 
the travail of his soul and be satisfied " — 
How much will it take to satisfy or fill full 
the infinite ! " That which ought to be true 
must be true." 

To speak with examples, some have re- 

Appendix. 125 

marked the great bodily and mental change 
produced by getting rid of anger and worry, 
and that, too, merely by an act of the will. 
A recent book on Varieties of Religious Ex- 
perience 1 illustrates the almost miraculous 
power that a state of mind has to change the 
face of nature and even the very facts of 
nature, especially the meaning or value they 
have to our thought. 

In short, to those who can receive it, psy- 
chology seems to declare that pessimism is 
one of the lingering effects of moral disease 
not yet cast off or outgrown, but against 
which some of us must yet contend for a 
while. Hence, for some, Dr. Bradford 2 has 
the right word when he says "Hope, as a 
duty." Learn the lesson of Job and assert 
that God is good, contrary to evidence, and 
so win his blessing of a mighty faith and of 
its abundant peace. 

Others, by grace, have risen above that 
which is merely duty, and have the full con- 

*By William James, who quotes on page 1 8 1, Fletcher's 
Menticulture or the ABC of True Living (1899), p. 26-36. 
2 Age of Faith, pp. 233-67. 

1 26 Appendix. 

fidence of faith in the power and goodwill of 
God. By grace and faith St. Paul was " per- 
suaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, 
nor principalities, nor things present, nor 
things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor 
any other creature, shall be able to separate 
us from the love of God." 1 

By such grace one may have faith to look 
forward and believe in " the restoration of all 
things whereof God spake by the mouth of 
his holy prophets which have been from of 
old " 2 ; and in those other words, whereby 
God, so to speak, binds himself with an oath. 
"As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee 
shall bow and every tongue shall confess and 
give praise to God." 3 

1 Romans viii, 38-39. 2 Acts iii, 21. 

* Romans xiv., 11, and Ephesians ii, 10-11.